Debra Jo Immergut: Five Things I Learned Writing You Again

From Edgar Award finalist Debra Jo Immergut, YOU AGAIN is a tight, twisting work of literary suspense about a woman haunted by her more youthful self. Booklist calls it “a furious page turner” and Kirkus, in a starred evaluation, says its “an extensive meditation on love, regret, ambition, and fate.”

When my novel feels like a Rubiks Cube, I write best

These were really tough concerns. I challenged myself to provide some plausible descriptions for this twisting of time– while not over-explaining it and draining off all the mystery. I discovered this challenge totally soaking up. It nearly broke my brain working everything out however Im really happy of the outcome, and now, at last, I know how to get my ass in the chair and remain there for hundreds of hours and hundreds of pages. Embed a puzzle deep in it the storys heart. Ill be under its thrall until I determine how to solve it.

I had the strangest sense that, if the old wooden door swung open, my more youthful self would come stepping out. What would she think if she saw me, wed female, pressing this toddler around, and no unique to show for it?

It felt so genuine. I always remembered that vision. A couple of years later, I discovered my method back to writing in a little way, and I chose to explore the concept of a lady meeting her younger self. How would such a thing take place? And why? What would the outcomes be? How would it alter her?

My red is not your red

When I was dealing with the very first total draft of the unique, I was fortunate enough to invest a month at an artists colony– which was like a luxe sleepaway camp for compulsive imaginative oddballs. I satisfied an artist there called Franklin Evans (super gifted, look him up) and though he was rather retiring and reticent, I wheedled my way into the studio he had actually been given, a spooky old stone structure in the woods. I told him I was writing a book about a painter which it would assist me at that minute to smell his paints. Poor man! He agreed. While I was just soaking up the organized chaos of his workspace– he was piecing together brightly hued works from art tape and bits of little paintings– I asked him about his preferred art-related books. He called two. One was a biography of Matisse. The other was “Interpretation of Color” by Josef Albers. I purchased them both. The Matisse was fascinating– however the Albers resembled the secrets to the kingdom– I quickly understood that my primary character, Abigail, would have utilized this book as her bible. In the book, Albers systematically shows numerous surprising and mystical homes of color, and how its everything about context. I found out that, due to the fact that the inner structures of eyes are as private as our finger prints, no two individuals appear the same shades. Your red is not my red. This turned into one of the managing ideas of the unique– how we are ruled by our very individual understandings of reality.

Some part of me wants to smash things

I resided in Berlin in the 1990s, simply after the fall of the Wall. In particular parts of town, I d see these black-clad wildlings who were constantly requiring some “aktion” or other, frequently objecting the expulsion of squatters from the destroyed structures that had been left to fall apart since the war. Every May Day, the antifa would battle the police in certain parks and streets, and both sides seem to enjoy this ritual. I discovered it fascinating, specifically considering that I come from an American generation that didnt do much street-marching or objecting. I d seldom seen such things up close. Recently, visiting Berlin, I really looked for a few demos, simply to observe them. I questioned: could this European stress of antifascism– which began in earnest in 1920s Italy during the increase of Mussolini– ever make inroads into the United States? I thought the answer would be yes– and then Trumps inauguration happened, when the American Antifa threw its first couple of actually resonant punches. While dealing with You Again, I chose that Abigails 16-year-old boy, Pete, might be drawn in to this rising movement intent on damaging the status quo, provided how dissatisfied his parents appeared with their status quo. Without backing them, I need to confess that, as an author, I found their enthusiasm, their turmoil, and their boldness to be powerful narrative fuel, and presenting this element altered the course of the novel.

Secondary characters are the tastiest treats

Secondary characters bring me such pleasure. While my main characters are busy questing for responses to the fantastic puzzles of their lives, the secondary characters are just hectic being their bad selves. I have to limit myself from overpopulating my books with small characters, I like them so fiercely.

Really major sweat must be broken

Then, its time to bring the hammer down. I took me several years to comprehend just how much harder I would need to work on later drafts. How ruthless I required to be, as I examined every character, every word, every plot turn, the endings and beginnings. If I didnt feel painfully extended to the limits of my capabilities, the end result wasnt even going to be close to good enough. Were asking a lot of our readers– listen to me blather on for page after page after page!– so if Im not dedicated to the job with ferocious and unceasing effort, then I dont be worthy of to be checked out. Thats been a tough lesson to find out, and its taken numerous years to actually sink in, but I now feel its truth deep in my bones. All too frequently I fail, but a minimum of I comprehend how high I have to reach.

Thats all real for very first draft writing, when youre just looking for to tap the wellspring, that mysterious deep source of the finest raw concepts.

This is a lesson I have been finding out every day since I made a figured out return to fiction writing after being laid-off from a fulltime task five years earlier. Yes, developing fictional worlds and cooking up fictional people– especially those yummy secondary characters– is deeply rewarding enjoyable.


Debra Jo Immergut is the author of You Again, upcoming from Ecco/HarperCollins in July 2020, and The Captives, a 2019 Edgar Award finalist for Best Debut Novel by an American Author, published in the United States by Ecco and in over a dozen other nations. Her stories and essays have appeared in American Short Fiction, Narrative, and The New York Times, amongst others.

Debra Jo Immergut: Website|Instagram|Twitter

You Again:|Amazon

It nearly broke my brain working it all out but Im truly happy of the outcome, and now, at last, I understand how to get my ass in the chair and stay there for hundreds of hours and hundreds of pages. When I was working on the first total draft of the novel, I was lucky enough to invest a month at an artists colony– which was like a luxe sleepaway camp for obsessive imaginative oddballs. While my central characters are busy questing for answers to the excellent puzzles of their lives, the secondary characters are just busy being their bad selves. I have to limit myself from overpopulating my books with minor characters, I enjoy them so fiercely.

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Yes, developing imaginary worlds and cooking up imaginary human beings– particularly those yummy secondary characters– is deeply rewarding fun.

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