Brian Duren Guest Post
I am delighted that Laura chose me as the Hometown Author for May and offered me the opportunity to write a guest post.
I’ve learned from the Q&A’s following my readings of Whiteout that readers are very curious about authors and the process of writing.
One of the questions that I have frequently received is, Where did you get the story? Whiteout started with a description of snow. One morning, several years ago, I was sitting in my study, looking out on the backyard at huge drifts of snow. We’d had a blizzard during the night, and the storm had completely transformed the yard into a field of glistening white forms. I was so moved by what I saw that I wrote a description. Over subsequent months and years, I went back to that description, rewriting it and transforming it into the setting for a story.
The setting brings up another question: Is Whiteout autobiographical? The story is not, but the setting definitely comes from my experience. I have three sons who are thirty-one, nineteen, and sixteen. When the boys were young, or much younger, I used to take them north to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to stay in a cabin on a lake or to go camping in the wilderness. I got to know this area of Minnesota very well, developed a strong attachment to it, and decided to set my story--and the snow--there.
(You have probably noticed that all of the awards that Whiteout has garnered are related somehow to the setting. One of the great pleasures of writing fiction is that the writer can experience a second time something that he has already loved.)
As I developed the setting, I decided I wanted a blizzard to somehow be at the center of the story. I had an image of a human figure emerging from, or disappearing into, a whiteout. (Jay Monroe, who designed the book cover, recreated the image that I had in mind.) Somehow the story would be about a man on a quest to find the truth about his past and his identity. The story only became clear through the process of writing.
I love E. L. Doctorow’s comment that writing a novel is “like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” When I recall that line, my mind automatically substitutes the blizzard in Whiteout for “night.” I find that one of the great pleasures of writing fiction is moving forward into a world that doesn’t exist until the writer creates it. There is no road map, no plan, just whatever comes from writing.
I hope you enjoy reading Whiteout and that you will visit my website (www.brianduren.com) to learn more about my work and to stay in touch with me.