We’re excited to share that past contributor John Vanderslice recently put out a new book! The novel, Nous Nous, came out in October from Braddock Avenue Books. Nous Nous is a literary crime drama told through a multitude of voices that follows a child kidnapping in a small town in Arkansas. Lawrence Baine’s world came crashing down around him after his beloved daughter was kidnapped and murdered. Baine’s tormented reaction, however, is to kidnap someone else’s daughter. This girl turns out to be the daughter of Elizabeth Riddle, an Episcopal priest, who struggles to guide her church while trying to rescue her daughter from the clutches of her unusual but suddenly dangerous captor.
One thing about the book which is both curious and a source of pride is that I drafted it several years ago in a Novel Writing Workshop class I was teaching. In that class, I make the students draft a short novel; i.e., 50,000 words. I assign rigid weekly word counts, and I put the students in peer groups so that they receive some regular feedback about their burgeoning drafts. I also think it’s important that I put myself through the same steps I am making them go through. I assign myself to a peer group and give myself the same word count requirements.
Doing it in that class really proved fundamental to the book. One reason is that I received some superb suggestions early on from my peer group which help me clarify some of my characterizations and character issues. The other important result of doing it in that class is that I chose to use a braided narrative structure. I mean a rolling series of chapters in which four different points of view rotate. I figured that would be an easy way to keep me charging though the draft, bring new energy to each chapter as I began it. It did all that, but it also proved to be essential to creating that leave-them-on-the-edge-of-their-seats suspense that authors, especially ones who struggle with plotting, aim for and struggle to enact. And as I looked for ways to make the braids coordination tighter and tighter, I discovered all sorts of interesting and useful connections between the characters that I simply had not planned or envisioned when I started. So that draft came together wonderfully.
Not that there wasn’t a lot of editing ahead of me. I shaped the book for several years after drafting it (while working on other things), and I also found that when it came down to the time for fine-tuning sentences and paragraphs, I’ve never worked with sharper editors than those at Braddock Avenue. They did not legislate anything, but they did make some excellent suggestions that the book truly benefited from.
Anyway, it just feels like kismet: the subject matter I chose, the platform on which I drafted it, and the publisher I eventually found.
John’s story “Capuchin” was featured in Issue 14. He is the author of several books, about which you can learn more on his website. Head to Braddock Avenue Books to purchase a copy of Nous Nous. Thank you for sharing, John!
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