This excerpt from Daryl Gregory’s upcoming novel Spoonbenders describes a young boy named Matty, and how his lust for his cousin leads him to a supernatural out of body experience. Matty is part of the Telemachus family, whose psychic powers garnered them some short lived fame back in the 70s. The book, coming out on June 27th, explores how individual members of the family reacted to life outside the spotlight.
In this episode of The Other Stories podcast, Gregory discusses genre, his writing process, and most importantly, how to keep the writing process fun.
Gregory says that while his novel is being marketed as a mainstream book, he has clearly drawn from both sci-fi and fantasy traditions. In fact, he explains that genre is exactly that– a marketing tool. Additionally, it serves two other important functions: it allows people to find books similar to other books they’ve enjoyed in the past, and it allows similar books to engage in a sort of “conversation” with each other.
Furthermore, Gregory also believes that adding sci-fi or fantasy tropes to his novel, which is a family drama at its core, can magnify aspects of his characters. To elaborate, Matty’s mother’s superpower is that she is a human lie detector. The ability to see through their children’s lies is a quality almost universally attributed to mothers, and by making it her superpower, Gregory concretizes this even further, which is not only effective, but it also ends up feeling even more relatable than if that “weird” (as Gregory calls it) wasn’t there.
The Writing Process…
As an English and Theatre student, Gregory was greatly influenced by the works of William Shakespeare. One of his favorite aspects of Much Ado About Nothing is how the story follows different characters and explores their different perspectives, and then all of these characters come together at the end. This inspired him to explore the rotating point of view technique which he experimented with in a small scale way with his novella “We Are All Completely Fine.” In this novella, the perspective switches between five people who are in group therapy. In Spoonbenders, however, he rotates the point of view between each member of the extended Telemachus family. This way he could create characters with authentic psychologies, explore their individual voices, and create a realistic, shared family history.
…and how to keep it fun!
In his interview, Gregory says “wanting to write happened almost at the same time as I learned how to read.” Many writers are familiar with that feeling, but unfortunately, many are also familiar with writer’s block and anxiety over incomplete projects. Gregory concedes that after all, writing is a job: “In order to be a good writer,” he explains, “you need a lack of imagination.” By this, he means that you have to be willing to spend hours and hours a day working on your writing. However, nothing is more rewarding than that point when you finally get to the middle of a book, get lost in the flow, and are able to finally use your writing as a refuge.
Fun Fact: In his novella We Are All Completely Fine, one of the characters in group therapy complains about how there was a young adult series written about him in his youth. Gregory is actually now writing those three young adult novels cited in the novella.