with the author, nine times out often he’s going to help me understandrnwhy something worked.rnI ask him how he plans his books, because I have the impressionrnthat his complex structures must require elaborate outlines, characterrnsummaries, and all the usual paraphernalia taught in thernWrite-by-Numbers fiction courses. In fact, he says, he does not dornany planning, not even an outline.rnAn enduring literature has to speakrnto eternal human values —rnalthough that sentence may be inrnitself a thoughterime.rnDK: I start with a premise, though a premise by itself is notrnenough to interest me in a book, hi False Memory, I ran acrossrn”autophobia,” which is an interesting idea, that someone couldrnbecome afraid of himself The next step is to figure out the sortrnof character who would have this problem. . . . At that point Irnstart writing, and I have no idea of where I am going. I have torndo many drafts of a page—I finish a page before I move to thernnext one. Before I got a computer, my wife kept track of the t)pingrnpaper I used, and she discovered that I reworked ever}’ page,rnon average, 30 times. Now, witli a computer, I’m more obsessivernstill.rnI build a book the way marine polyps build a coral reef. Theyrnsacrifice themselves in the millions and gradually build it up. Irnam gradually building it up out of all these dead hours of workrnthat are behind every page. Your subconscious works ahead inrnva’s that you are unaware of You’ve been thinking there’s arnterrible problem 100 pages ahead; wondering how are you goingrnto handle this, but when von get there — if you go slowlv —rnyon realize that it has alreadv been solved. . . . hi fact, the charactersrnseize control of the book and take it wherever they wantrnto go.rnTF: If a work doesn’t escape from the artist’s control, it will neverrnbe fully successful. A poem or novel is like a baby that mustrnhave the lunbilical cord cut and begin to have a life of its own.rnDK: That is exacdy what happens, and it is the strangest thingrnabout writing fiction. It becomes so real to )’ou that when charactersrnare having amusing dialogue, I find myself laughing outrnloud. Or I can be moved to tears when something terrible happensrnto characters that I have not been anticipafing.rnIn The Bad Place, there is a boy with Down Syndrome. It gotrnto the point in the story where he had to die, but I couldn’t killrnhim off, I had become so deeply attached to him, and the bookrncame to a grinding halt. I tried to move forward and had to tearrnlip pages. I had never seen that he was going to die, and I simplyrncouldn’t handle it. Yet I knew that ever’ major character inrnthe book was an analogue for a particular Christian figure andrnthat on a subtextual level, certain Christian themes were playingrnout. This boy was an innocent, pure of heart, who brings arnrevealed faith to the other characters. He was Christ, in anrnarchehpal sense, and therefore had to die to advance the story.rnWhen I let him fulfill his destiny, let him die, the storv wentrnsmoothly thereafter.rnTF: Wlien Trollope decided to kill off Mrs. Proudie, many ofrnhis readers were outraged, even though she was a dreadful lady.rnAccording to biographers, Trollope never had an entirely rationalrnplan for his writing but daydreamed his way into novels. Asrnan “intellectual,” Trollope was entirely conventional, and hernwas far wiser in his heart than in his more rational calculations.rnDK: Fiction is not primarily intellectual, ^’^^en it is snceessffil,rnit speaks to the heart before it speaks to the mind. If it is reallyrnsuccessful, it speaks to both, as it does in the case of Dickens. Irnhadn’t read Dickens seriously until after college, because I hadrnthis stupid idea that I would find him boring. Then I picked uprnA Tale of Two Cities and read it over the course of a weekend,rnand at one o’clock Sunday morning, reaching that magnificentrnfinal sentence, I sat in bed with tears streaming down my face.rnDickens was a very popular novelist, as, in fact, are all thernwriters who survive from earlier centuries in literature: Shakespearernand Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and MarkrnTvain. Popularity is not the only thing; otherwise JackiernCollins would have been long ago enshrined by the NobelrnCommittee.rnAn enduring literature has to speak to eternal human valuesrn—although that sentence may be in itself a thoughterime.rnAt this point an academic critic would ask: If popularity,rnachieved by addressing the values of ordinary people, is requiredrnfor literature to last, what about Henry James? In the firstrnplace, James obviously wanted to attract a large audience, otherwisernwhy did he publish 100 books? But secondly, a lot ofrnJames has not in fact lasted, because it was too dry and earnestlyrnintellectual.rnTF: James engaged in a sort of exchange with H.C. Wells.rnWells insisted on the importance of compelling stories withrnbroad social purpose, while James emphasized serious psychologicalrnanalysis. Frankly, though it is heresy to say so, I thinkrnWells’ best work—The History of Mr. Polly, Tono-Bungay, ThernTime Machine—wiW outlast most of James’.rnDK: The irony of James is that his most enduring book is—rnDK and TF simultaneously: The Turn of the Screw.rnDK: Is the business of literature really academic analysis, or is itrnthe recreation of human experience? I got in a number ofrnwhacks, you’ll notice, against the academy in False Memory.rnWhen did the idea get established that, if a book is popular, itrncan’t be good? .. . If you go back to the 1940’s, you find peoplernlike John P. Marquand who won the Pulitzer Prize but alsornwrote the Mr. Moto mysteries under his own name…. GrahamrnGreene may have been the last popular writer who was taken seriouslyrnby the elitist critics.rnThe problem began with the boom in higher education followingrnWorld War II, when college rolls doubled and tripled,rnand there were not enough capable philosophers and literar)’rnhistorians to handle the influx of veterans going to school on thernG.I. Bill. As a result, colleges had to hire all those second- andrnthird-rate professors who eventually became tenured —andrn12/CHRONICLESrnrnrn