In this interview, we join author of The Drifters, Nathan Nix. Later this month I will be reviewing a copy of The Drifters. Now let’s join Mr Nix as I interview him. By the way, this interview set it Austin, Texas.
-How did you come up with the idea for The Drifters?
Like Nic, the main character, I had to stay in town after high school and go to community college, which was the last place on earth I wanted to be. I had plans to go to Illinois to study music, and all of that fell through for financial reasons. Community college was such a bizarre experience that I wanted to write a book about all the funny things that happened there (this was before Community hit the airwaves). As I began to write about it, I realized I also wanted to tell the story of a person being introduced to and getting transformed by music and art. A lot of the funny community college stuff fell by the wayside as I realized a lot of those scenes were “you had to have been there” moments that weren’t coming across as funny on the page. The book then became more about how people come and go in your life, how everyone drifts through and shapes you as you become an adult.
-What was the hardest part about writing The Drifters?
The hardest part about writing The Drifters was telling the story from a female character’s point of view. The first two books I ever wrote (which haven’t seen the light of day) had a guy as the main character. With this one, I knew I wanted to stretch myself a bit and hopefully develop as a storyteller, especially when it came to using my imagination. The best way I could think to do that was to try to get in the head and heart of a girl. I studied journalism in college, so I’m a fairly keen observer. That meant that capturing the way girls talk and interact wasn’t too hard. What got tricky were the details – calling things what a girl would call them as opposed to something generic the way a guy would. (A basic example – not from the book – would be a guy calling something pink, whereas a girl would know the different shades of pink). I had to take the extra time to learn these things. The feedback so far has been that I did a pretty good job, which is a huge relief.
-What/Who was your inspiration for your main character and their relationship with each other? (In The Drifters)
I made a conscious effort to not base the characters on anyone in particular with this book. I’m always worried that if I base a character off someone, they’re going to read it and think, “Oh, that’s how he sees me?” I suppose there is a bit of myself in every character, but I tried to use my imagination as much as possible. That said, I was definitely that suburban kid whose horizons were broadened by music and art and film in my later high school and early college years. I worked in a coffee shop around the time I graduated high school, and the manager there – one of my best friends now – introduced me to all this great music and invited me to start a band with him. That band, The Jessica Star (which gets a shout-out in the book), took me deep into the Houston music scene and into the city itself. When all my old friends from high school went away to Austin and College Station for university, I started making these new friends in dive bars and at music festivals who were incredibly creative and viewed life in a different way. Most people experience that drift in their life, where they have to make a new group of friends, but mine just happened to involve a change in mindset too.
– Do you have a favorite place to write?
I typically write at home, on my couch, with a muted soccer game on TV. Every so often, I’ll take a break and watch the game for a few minutes. That’s usually enough time for my brain to re-focus. Most other places are too distracting (and I get distracted very easily). If I’m rewriting or editing, I’ll sometimes get out and go to Antidote, my favorite neighborhood coffee shop, but only if I’m in the mood for a beer and cookie (yes, that’s a combo that works somehow).
-What advice you you have for beginner authors?
Learn to move on from a project. That book you’re writing now? In a year, you’ll probably think it sucks. It probably does. But that project represents a particular time in your life and the particular skills you had then. Accept that for what it is. Before I wrote The Drifters, I (in chronological order) made a short film, wrote a screenplay, made a feature-length film, wrote another screenplay, re-wrote a screenplay, and then wrote two books. The Drifters, my third book, is the first thing good enough to see the light of day. That’s over a ten-year span. I always thought I’d be awesome right out of the gate, even though every artist I’ve ever read interviews with said otherwise, that you should expect your first few works to be terrible. They were right. It wasn’t time wasted though – I needed to get all that garbage out of me so I would know what mistakes to avoid. I think it’s finally paid off. The main thing is to just keep writing. If you finish a story, start another one. Ira Glass has this to say about beginning writers, and it’s spot-on: On Being Creative. It might seem discouraging, but it shouldn’t be. Accept that storytelling is a skill that you have to develop. Then study it and get better!
Thanks so much for joining me! See y’all next time(: