Today, I’m excited to share part 2 of our exclusive interview with The Walls Around Us author Nova Ren Suma. If you missed it, here is part 1.
The challenge for a story like this is that it is steeped in the real world but also needs to find a way to slip in the supernatural elements in the most believable way possible. So the big question is: How and when to first introduce the otherworldly twist? Or at least the initial hints, the breadcrumbs that will all make sense later? I spent a long time moving reveals and information and shocks around, trying to determine when to show my hand. My editor, Elise Howard at Algonquin, was instrumental in helping me come to terms with this. The best editors always help a writer rise to the challenges.
As for the pleasant surprises in balancing the real world and the supernatural, those can be found in the moment, on the page. I would be writing a scene that I had planned out and thought I knew what would happen and then, suddenly, out of the darkness would come this supernatural little twist that then ripples out and changes everything. I love when a scene surprises me like that.
I first really discovered magical realism in a seminar course in Latin American fiction in my MFA program, when I was twenty-two or twenty-three, so this was quite a number of years ago. Of course we read One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I loved so much I have since read it at least three more times, but the book from this course that most struck me, and that haunted me for years and was one of the inspirations for my first YA novel, Imaginary Girls, is Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo. It’s about a man searching for his father in an actual ghost town, and it’s stunning and eye-opening and unsettling and beautiful. A book I will never forget.
I didn’t write magical realism right away, even though I loved reading it. I confined myself to writing stories set in the real world, with no otherworldly twists stepping in, until I started writing Imaginary Girls, inspired by Pedro Páramo but also by the surreal work of David Lynch, especially Twin Peaks. Now, with The Walls Around Us, I have embraced the idea that the worlds I am writing always have a door open to the unexpected and I should let in whatever wants in. It’s become an addiction. I don’t know if I could stop myself from slipping in something strange and surreal into my stories now.
Catch part 3 of our Q&A on Friday!