The book that you have now, yeah, sections of it have been published since 2008, but that should not imply that the book made any sense to me in 2008 at all. I finished a draft in 2010 that was almost nothing at all like this book. Nelson was still the main character and it still dealt with the theater troupe, but apart from that, it’s an entirely different book, an entirely different tone, and an entirely different plot. A lot of the stuff that was published in the New Yorker was sort of me trying to figure out the best way to tell the story and learning, in some ways, what the best story to tell was. I ended up coming back to “The Idiot President” after a long, long detour from another entirely different narrative direction.
How did you change your direction?
It was a pretty painful process, and I mean that pretty literally, to finish a novel and then realize that you’ve gone in the wrong direction and the only way to do anything about it is to cut 400 pages and start over. I showed it to a couple friends with a great deal of weariness and kind of a little bit of hope thinking that they were going to tell me that I was wrong, that this draft was good. And my friends, to their credit, were like “no, this draft is not good. I think you need to do something about it.” They didn’t tell me what I needed to do about it, but it became clear sort of meditating on what they told me at the end of 2010, that I needed to do something pretty radical with the book. So I did something very radical: I threw out everything.
[Στα ελληνικά κυκλοφορεί το Lost City Radio, με τίτλο Αγνοούμενοι FM, από τον Πάπυρο]