What: Rob Hart is the associate publisher at MysteriousPress.com and the class director at LitReactor. He’s the author of The Last Safe Place: A Zombie Novella. His short stories have appeared in Shotgun Honey, Crime Factory, Thuglit, Needle, Reloaded, Kwik Krimes, and Helix Literary Magazine. Non-fiction articles have been featured at LitReactor, Salon, Nailed, and Mulholland Books. His debut novel, NEW YORKED, will be published by Polis Books in June 2015, with the sequel, City of Rose, to follow in 2016.
Where: New York
I just finished reading an advanced copy of NEW YORKED, and I really dug it. I couldn’t put it down. How long was the process of writing the novel, from inception to final draft? How did the story and characters evolve?
I started writing the book in 2010. It was about three years of writing, maybe 20 drafts, three of which were ground-up rewrites. I took characters out, added them back, combined with others. I was really stumbling my way through. That said, the main character’s journey remained the same. It was a long, tough process, but I’m happy to say I found my voice (the follow-up only took six months and three drafts), and I learned a valuable lesson: Outline. Turns out I work best with a roadmap. I may not stick the main highway for the whole trip, but at least I’ve got a bird’s-eye view of where the hell I’m going.
What did you learn about yourself as a writer along the way? At what point did you know you had something that was publishable?
I’m a native New Yorker, and I love this town, but it can wear on you. There was a period where I was thinking of leaving, and part of this book was me trying to decide that. I knew at the end the narrator was going to stay or leave, and whatever he decided was what I was going to do. (Not that it worked out that way. Which is not a spoiler—the second book has already been announced, and it’s taking place in Portland, Oregon.) As for when I knew it was publishable—that’s tough. I thought it was publishable at a much earlier stage, and then it got rejected by a whole bunch of agents. Then I went back to work on it and did a few more drafts. Then I met up with an agent who liked my novella and wanted to see if I had a novel. She read NEW YORKED, loved it, and took me on. When someone’s willing to wager on you in a professional manner, that’s a good sign things are coming along.