Tonight Moscow author Alexandra Teague will read from her debut novel, the surrealist coming-of-age story “The Principles of Flotation.”In the book a giant sea suddenly materializes in a small Arkansas town. The religiously contentious community is faced with an array of questions but teen protagonist A.Z. sees an opportunity to make history.
The University of Idaho English professor and published poet opened up about her writing process in an Inland 360 Q&A.
You have a strong writing background in poetry. Did you find it challenging to write a novel?
Teague: Yes, definitely. I’ve always written some fiction as well as poetry, but working on the scope of a novel was incredibly challenging, not the least because I wrote it much as I do my poems: seeing in many cases where the language and images and characters took me, rather than plotting everything out.
Do you have a writing routine?
Teague: During the academic year when I’m teaching, I try to block out one day a week for writing. During summers and breaks, I’ll write much more often than that. When I was working on the novel and then the many rounds of revision, I sometimes wrote or revised for eight-10 hours at a time day after day. I’m a little bit obsessive when I get into a project.
What is the most difficult part of the writing process for you?
Teague: Organization and pacing. I had to revise and revise to be able to see the best (or at least a better) way to pace my scenes and to see opportunities for scenes that could be reorganized or connected differently.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given as a writer?
Teague: My undergrad mentor, the poet Michael Burns, told me early on — when I said something about knowing the last line — to never start a piece of writing knowing its ending. While I knew from midway through generally how the novel would end, I didn’t (as I said above) plot out everything. And for me, the most fun and interesting aspect of writing is being surprised by places that stories or language can take us that we’re not expecting, both as writers and readers. As I said, that aspect of writing can also be incredibly challenging. But I wouldn’t have stayed interested enough to even complete the novel (and the many rounds of revisions) if I weren’t still discovering at each stage new opportunities and ideas and layers to the story and characters.
If You Go
Who: Alexandra Teague reading “The Principles of Flotation”
When: 7 Thursday, March 23
Where: BookPeople of Moscow, 521 S. Main St.