Featured Q & A with Theodora Goss
Q: How did the idea for this peculiar love story come about?
A: It all started last summer, when my editor called me. He had an idea: a book in an accordion format. He mentioned that, because the format would be so important, I might want to include a book in the story itself. I think that's when I first got the idea for The Book of the Green Knight. It was all there, in the proposal: the whole story, or at least the general outline of it. As for the love story itself, it's based in part on a real love story, or my imaginative interpretation of it. At some point, Evelyn and Brendan took over and started telling me what had happened to them. I think it always happens that way, when you're writing a book.
Q: How did the book's unique format influence the evolution of the story?
A: It made writing a technical challenge! First, I wrote Evelyn's story. Next, I wrote Brendan's story as I was reading Evelyn's, matching events and scenes. And then, I revised Evelyn's story based on Brendan's, and Brendan's based on Evelyn's. Each time, events from the other story would inform my writing or revisions. So something would happen in Brendan's story, and I would have to go back and make sure it happened in Evelyn's as well.
Q: Each side of the story is carefully written. How did you decide which details would go into Brendan's or Evelyn's story?
A: I don't think I decided, actually. While I was writing each story, I was completely in the mind of the character from whose perspective I was writing. So while I was writing Evelyn's story, I saw it from her perspective. I wrote what she would see and know. And the same for Brendan's story. I think that part of the writing process came more naturally than you might expect. The details that were important to these characters were the ones that ended up in their narratives.
Q: Where should a reader start, with Brendan's or Evelyn's story?
A: Readers can start with either story: each choice will give them a slightly different experience. And it might be a good idea, once you've finished both stories, to go back to the one you started with, because at that point you'll have a different understanding of it.
Q: There is so much evocative imagery throughout the book. Were you inspired by your own life or was it purely imagination?
A: It always seems to be both. I've never been to Cornwall, so the parts of the story set there are based in part on research. (I still remember looking at restaurant menus to figure out what you might eat for lunch in a Cornish restaurant.) But details are based on my own experiences. The forest is based on forests I've been in, and the scene in the woods was based on an actual experience, although it was certainly less fantastical than the one I describe. The university is definitely based on my own experiences! I've been a graduate student and faculty member, so I know what it's like in academia. But in the end, a book is never created entirely by its writer. Readers will imagine these things for themselves, each in a different way. The forest will be the forests they've walked through; the love story will be relationships they've experienced. And that's as it should be. That's what reading's all about--participating in the story.