Interview: The Transgressions of Nevada McPherson
What makes your book unique? And what are some of the main takeaways you want to convey through this story?
When I was getting ready to send Poser out into the world, thinking about publishers and so forth, I went to the bookstores and looked around for comparative titles and where my book might fit in. I could see it being on the shelf with the others, but somehow different. I didn't mind that it was different but was having trouble placing it into a standard "genre." This frustrated me, but now I realize that Poser is transgressive fiction! Once I started to understand exactly what that is and how it fit with what I was doing, I knew I'd found a niche for my work and for myself as a writer.
The main takeaway of the novel is that all too often, many of us go to great lengths to present ourselves as something other than we are. Even though my MC is the "poser" of the title, all the characters are posers in one way or another.
What is your writing process like?
For something long like a novel or feature screenplay, which is mostly what I've written so far, I like to make a very rough outline to give me some feel for how the structure is shaping up. I think of things that will need to happen and arrange my scenes, leaving room to discover things about my characters as I go. Even if they take me places I hadn't expected, I see how I can work that into the story, because after all, it's their story, and one mustn't ignore the Muse.
Then I just start writing, spilling it onto the handwritten page or computer screen, without judgements or holding back. If I run into a spot where I don't know exactly what a character will say, or where I need to do research, I leave space there and keep going. Sometimes I might edit an earlier section just to see if I'm still headed in the right direction, then go back to the spilling of words, then lots of shaping and editing.
When did you first know that writing was your passion? And how did you break in?
I wrote my first short story when I was in the sixth grade; it was about vampires. Since then I've loved to write stories and even before I started writing them down, I'd make them up in my head. Then once I started, I just kept writing, filling up notebooks.
I think of signing with Outcast-Press as my breaking-in point for fiction and I'm very excited about that! Since college, I've mostly written feature-length screenplays. Several of those have placed in or won screenwriting competitions, and three of those I adapted into graphic novels a few years before I started writing Poser as a prose novel.
I’m also curious about the role any other creative activities play in your writing?
I definitely think engaging in other creative activities enhances my writing. Drawing and painting force me to look at things closer and to be more specific and detail-oriented to really bring them alive. I also love taking pictures, and figuring out the best shot for an object or scene helps me to write more cinematically.
Now that you’ve published a book, what do you think the elements of a good book are?
A good book should be interesting, first and foremost. I love reading a book I just can't put down. Then strong narrative, evocative description, believable characters and dialogue that rings true.
Do you think a book must focus on harrowing experiences to be effective?
That's a very important element. In books and screenplays the protagonist must be challenged by strong opposing forces to show what they're made of. The stakes should be high, the risk and consequences of failure palpable. The type of harrowing experience, whether it's a matter of literal life or death or one that feels like it, such as a broken relationship, or rescuing a lifelong dream from oblivion, depends on the story.
Are there any topics that are off limits?
No topics off-limits. Everything is on the table to be written about. My challenge as a writer is finding the courage to do it.
How do you decide something is worth writing about?
If it's something that sticks with me. If I run to greet it in my mind after dealing with the everyday mundane. Then I have to roll up my sleeves, work on it, and if the commitment is still there after the initial thrill wears off, if I can't really rest until it's done, I know it's worth writing about.
What is one book you think everyone needs to read?
How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton. Even if you've never read Proust (full disclosure: I haven't but have always wanted to and 2022 is the year!), I still find myself referring to many of the quotes and ideas in this book. I'm a fan of literary biography, and what makes writers tick, but this work is as much about the reader. One idea I find particularly interesting is that of reading as an "incitement" to living more fully and mindfully rather than as an end in itself. Here’s a quote: "Even the greatest books deserve to be thrown aside."
What advice do you have for any aspiring writers?
Never give up, even if you think no one is listening.
End of Interview
Nevada McPherson lives in the southern Gothic town of Milledgeville, Georgia: former home of Flannery O’Connor and site of Central State Hospital, once the world’s largest “lunatic asylum.” Her new novel, Poser, first in a series called the: Eucalyptus Lane Novels, will be released from Outcast-Press in February 2022. A graduate of L.S.U.’s MFA Screenwriting Program, Nevada has written several award-winning screenplays, as well a short stage play, non-fiction pieces, graphic novels, and countless to-do lists.