The connection between an author and translator is an unusual one; both seek to tell the same story through different languages. That relationship is explored in Idra Novey's debut novel, "Ways to Disappear," which takes place in both the United States and Brazil, concerning the travels of an American translator attempting to find the author she translates, who has gone missing. Novey, a lecturer in Creative Writing at the Lewis Center for the Arts, is also an accomplished poet, having published the award-winning collections "Exit, Civilian" and "The Next Country." "Ways to Disappear" was published Feb. 9 and has garnered rave reviews from NPR, BBC and Buzzfeed. In this Q&A, Senior Writer Victoria Scott asked Professor Novey about her novel and her creative writing process through an email interview.
The Daily Princetonian: What or who inspired your novel?
Idra Novey: Writer-translator Anne Carson’s innovative novel "Autobiography of Red" was a source of inspiration, and also the experience of translating the Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector.
DP: How did you begin the process of writing “Ways to Disappear”?
IN: It started with the image of a woman disappearing with a cigar and a suitcase into a tree. One day I had to be several places at once and it occurred to me that climbing into a tree instead might be the best solution.
DP: What's the most important aspect of the novel writing process?
IN: I would say honesty. Honesty with oneself as a writer, honesty with one’s readers and emotional honesty as one moves from scene to scene.
DP: How did your background in poetry play into your novel?
IN: I deleted whole pages the way I would with a poem. If a scene didn’t surprise me and move the novel forward in an unexpected, compelling way I’d erase the whole scene and try something else entirely as poets often do with poems, and the length of the scenes, how image-driven they are, is probably also a result of coming to fiction from poetry.
DP: How did you overcome writer’s block? (If you experienced it.)IN: Whenever I got stuck, I’d eat an entire bag of popcorn and then return to the last line I’d written that I felt good about and try to write from there. I often turn to popcorn when I have to figure something out. Maybe it’s the sound of it popping in the microwave, or the salty pleasure of eating it, but I find the whole ritual of popcorn makes many things feel easier to overcome.