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Monday, September 7, 2015

GUEST POST: The Importance Of Trunk Novels by Samuel Sattin


I began writing The Silent End three years ago. It started out with a series of dark and distorted ideas, some of which crossed the line from compelling into compromised and had to be reframed. There were Nazi scientists and something called dream soil, carnivorous plant beasts and improbable twists of fate. The story it became, however, years down the line, is, while diffuse, a more grounded enterprise; it hones in upon the lives of three somewhat aimless teens in a town lost to its own self, attempting to face down a monstrous menace that dwells beneath their high school.

It’s odd, it’s scary, it explores themes—personal themes—that seemingly sprang to life after the story was finished and typeset, as if conspiring unbeknownst to me in its protean DNA. I realized that as the narrative became clearer and its passages gained focus, its underlying messages became bolder as well. Simplicity led to an increase in significance in a manner so subtle it left me disturbed.

In some ways, I think it’s unavoidable for writers to keep themselves from overloading their novels—particularly their early ones. When it comes to League of Somebodies, for instance, my first book, I see it as inhabiting both the best and worst of the tendency many authors have to overwrite. A debut novelist often feels the need to shove every last idea he/she has onto the pages. The result can be energetic and fascinating, and the result a testament to raw talent. But by contrast, writers who continue to write, who try and fail to understand what it was about their first novels that succeeded and failed, how to retain raw energy but leave behind frivolity, end up in a tendentious and sometimes frustrating relationship with narrative.


In truth, The Silent End isn’t really my second novel. My second novel is inexplicably called Evidence of Planet Earth. I wrote it while sending out League of Somebodies to editors, and shelved it later on, after discovering how unwieldy it was. Weighed down by the fear of not being able to sell my first novel, and simultaneously attempting to match it in terms of verve, the result was an utterly incomprehensible multi-hundred page master-mess, the subject of which is a reincarnated thunder god named Magnavox, a mono-syllabic monster named the Bastard, and an assassin living inside an infant child’ hand.

In some ways, I’m grateful for my terrible fiction. Some writers may boast to begin from a point of clarity, and produce utter gold from the get go. Most of us, however, have to churn out amazing amounts of work to get to the core of what needs to be said. For a good story, no matter the genre, is one that needs to be told. And once a story needs to be told, it needs to be told well.

League of Somebodies had urgency to it, but I wasn’t yet skilled enough to bring its about full potential. Evidence of Planet Earth was an exercise in denial on my part, as I closed my eyes and swung for the fence. Only with The Silent End do I feel as if I discovered how to hold onto the through line. Thousands of pages later, I feel as if I’m finally starting to recognize the pitfalls of overwriting, and so can sidestep them easier, while clinging to the brimming chalice at the center of the novel, attempting to ensure the reader can have a taste of whatever it is I hope to offer forth.

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Official Author Website 
Order The Silent End HERE
Read An Excerpt HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Samuel Sattin is a novelist and essayist. He is the author of the upcoming novel THE SILENT END and LEAGUE OF SOMEBODIES, described by Pop Matters as "One of the most important novels of 2013." His work has appeared in the Atlantic, Salon Magazine, io9, Kotaku, Publishing Perspectives, The Weeklings, The Rumpus, The Good Men Project, Litreactor, San Francisco Magazine, The Cobalt Review, Cent Magazine, and elsewhere. Also an illustrator, he holds an MFA in Comics from California College of the Arts and has a creative writing MFA from Mills College. He's the recipient of NYS and SLS Fellowships, and he currently lives in Oakland, California.

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