J. Ryan Stradal’s hit novel Kitchens of the Great Midwest came out in 2015.
Most often, we hear from writers right when their book has just come out. They go on book tours and radio shows and NPR, if they are well-connected. I have been thrilled to talk to writers in this stage of the process, but the longer I work on this show, the more curious I am about the other parts of the writing journey- before the book is finished, or after it has gone out in the world and taken on a life of its own or, as in this case, when one book has sailed and the next has not yet fully formed.
J. Ryan and I talk about the impact of Kitchens and what it’s been like writing a new book. He’s still in the middle and making big decisions about structure and isn’t at the point of sending a finished manuscript off to the publisher. This next book is still becoming, and so the conversation is looser, more organic. I like that about this episode- we can’t talk in easy platitudes when the book is still a possibility and things could still change. For those of you mucking around in the messy middle, this episode will be right for you. It’s not an easy thing to write a book. What I learned from this talk was that, even if you’ve completed one book and done extremely well by it, the next book will still be an entirely new experience. I find this hopeful, since it’s easy to walk away from things that become predictable. After talking to J. Ryan, I’m even more confident that writing never will.
Discussed in Episode 59 with J. Ryan Stradal:
- J. Ryans of the world
- Writing about food and beer
- The evolution of food culture
- The seductive rabbit hole that is research
- On writing a long version of a book and then deciding what to cut
- Publishing excerpts from a longer piece
- Books that exist as drafts of books the authors might not have intended to share. Mentioned: The Pale King, by David Foster Wallace | Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
- Seeing cut material as B sides
- How Kitchens changed from agent submission to publication
- The trouble with an easy first novel
- Making changes between the hardcover and paperback editions and the shock that this is done
- The politics of hardcover and paperback releases
- Researching books
- Lots of fun stuff about beer culture
- How to know when you’re too deep in the weeds
This episode brought to you by The Story Intensive