April 19, 2016

Memory and Embellishment: an interview with Lynn Rosen, author of "A Man of Genius"

Lynn Rosen is the author of A Man of Genius, out on April 11th, 2016 [Una Publications]. Born and raised in New York City, Rosen earned three graduate degrees at the University of Rochester, where she later served on faculty. She has lived in Japan, the Midwest, and the East Coast, and been published in The Texas Quarterly and Caprice.

A Man of Genius is available via Amazon and in select brick-and-mortar retailers as of April 11, 2016.

Find Lynn Rosen on Facebook, Twitter, and at www.unapublications.com.

Gef : What was the spark that made you sit down to write A Man of Genius?

Lynn Rosen: The spark was what I believed to be a good story that settled in my memory and, in time, was embellished – as most memories are. As my memory took new form it seemed to me that the ever- emerging story posed more questions than answers. What can be more intriguing than open-ended questions that beg many possible answers?

Gef: While the book centers around the charismatic figure of Samuel Grafton-Hall, it's done so in the wake of his death. How did you go about choosing the viewpoint character(s) through which to unveil the mystery of the man?

LR: The development of A MAN OF GENIUS demanded that the characters act in a manner consistent with their individual systems of moral obligation, while at the same time their actions had to authentically drive the plot-line. I don’t spend much time debating whether a novel is plot or character driven. What I do believe is essential is that plot and character are supportive, have an inner consistency and are complimentary.

Gef: Some of the reviews the book has garnered have used the word "gothic" in describing it. Was there a purposeful intent on your part to invoke a gothic feel for readers?

LR: I confess to admiring the gothic – whether central or ornamental. In the case of A MAN OF GENIUS the settings, the houses, the hovering secret driving a mystery – all contribute to describing the book as “gothic.” In addition – the one conceit attributed to the “gothic” through the ages is something I can only hope the reader experiences– that of the sublime. The sublime in literature translates into transporting a reader beyond the pages of the book into his or her own expanded imagination. I do hope the readers of A MAN OF GENIUS take that trip.

Gef: How long have you been toiling away at your craft, and how have you found your progression as a writer thus far?

LR: Until the writing of A MAN OF GENIUS I never came near to considering myself a writer. I’ve long thought of myself as a story teller. I think most of my friends would nod their heads in agreement to that statement. I’ve been scribbling stories since I was about nine years old. Given my current age of 84 that’s a very long time. It was during World War II when my father left for the Pacific theater of engagement, and I was left alone with my psychotic mother that I took to writing, as it seemed to me that there was no one to talk to. I don’t know what prompted me to do so, but I sent my short jottings to the NY Times and some were printed as Letters to the Editor. I kept on referring to what I wrote as Snippets. Later, with my late husband, I wrote a non fiction book - sent the manuscript to publishing houses – without an agent – and the bidding began. Then I wrote a short story that was published, jotted down my response to a popular book that was printed in a well known periodical. I even received some checks for these efforts. Yet I continued to think of myself as a story teller -never a writer - until A MAN OF GENIUS.

Gef: Who do you count among your writing influences?

LR: Whenever I think of my list of giants among writers I immediately think of Laurence Sterne and TRISTAM SHANDY. Every decade or so I revisit the work and I’m always awed by Sterne’s command of his material which is so unusual in manipulation of plot (or lack of plot) his character development within a static ,largely non-existent plot line, and the author’s total control of concept and all elements of delivery despite the novelty of the entire concepts. Sterne had few, if any, writers to draw upon as his influence.

As I have a keen interest in magical realism, I am attracted to the works of Isabel Allende and John Irving. When it comes to capturing and melding character and place I’d cite Virginia Wolf’s MRS. DALLOWAY. And I’m drawn and redrawn to Austin and her talents in character and place development. As an admirer of the gothic I’m particularly drawn to Northanger Abbey. The work displays Austin’s thorough understanding of the gothic – so thorough that she is able to apply its elements to a deceivingly satirical work..

Gef: With Samuel Grafton-Hall being an architect, how much emphasis do you place on setting as character in A Man of Genius?

LR: Settings are major characters in A MAN OF GENIUS. And, they and the characters that occupy the settings establish a symbiotic relationship. As the characters move through and about the settings their reactions and actions within their environment play a major role in propelling the plot forward ,

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

LR: The worst advice I ever received, which cost me years of work and anguish, was that plot lines had to be resolved at the end of the story. The reader could not be left “dangling.” Which is exactly what I wanted to do in A MAN OF GENIUS. The story I wanted to tell had endless possibilities for resolution –possibilities that might find their way into the mind of each reader. It was my hope from the beginning that the work would stimulate thought and discussion because the end was not neatly wrapped up. If it had to be nearly wrapped up, I wasn’t the one to do the wrapping since I was never certain (and still am not) as to the story’s end.

I labored through draft after draft for years trying to live within the rule. When I finally gave up the ghost law and decided to do what I had wanted to do from the start, A MAN OF GENIUS truly came into being.

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

LR: I rarely read mysteries, but when I do I sneak a peek at the back pages – difficult to do on eBooks. My excuse is that I have to know where I’m heading to enjoy the trip. Hard to defend when I don’t sneak about in any other genre. As to movies, I admit that I sometimes go alone to movies to see what I term “chick romances” – the Kleenex application kind that is always accompanied by what might be described as “marshmallow music.” I always go alone and leave before the house lights go up. I live in a relatively small town. And I do confess to enjoying Broadway musicals with chorus lines and music you can go away humming. As to serious theater – I’ll travel anywhere to attend a well-reviewed production of a play.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up we can expect in the near future, and how can we keep
up with you?

LR: I have been playing with a memory that I find intriguing. Every time it comes to mind I have fun embellishing it…”and so it goes” (courtesy of K. Vonnegut). If it continues to expand and intrigue, it might end up as a novel

And – you can keep up with me on my website, www.unapublications.com. I still write those snippets - and, as I write new ones, you’ll find them there under “Musings.”

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