We catch up with Dylan Fisher '10 to talk about the publication of his first book, his writing process, and his creative inspirations.
MA: Congratulations on the publication and release of your first book, “The Loneliest Band in France”! One reviewer said, “Far from home, alienated from his father, the narrator of Dylan Fisher’s The Loneliest Band in France accepts a dream-like, deceptively easy offer from strangers. In much the same way, Fisher’s smooth, hypnotizing prose leads the reader deeper and deeper into a seemingly straightforward and yet utterly disorienting world of unspoken truth and invisible threat." Is the entire 61-page book all one sentence? What was the writing process like for you and did you know when you began how the book would unfold?
Thanks so much! Technically, I should say, it's a few sentences. I can't tell you how many. I've never counted. Though, I guess, it wouldn't be too difficult to find out. If I were to bet, I'd say it's nine sentences, but that's just speculation. When I first began writing The Loneliest Band, I had a sense of what the form and style—composed of long, winding sentences—would look like. I'd just finished László Krasznahorkai's War & War and Thomas Bernhard's Concrete, and I was looking for a way to synthesize their styles alongside some more fantastic elements.
I treated its initial writing as a game—which I think is the best way to write a book—to see how long I could keep a sentence going. It was incredible fun. I'd write between five hundred and a thousand words of the sentence each day, usually during my lunch and bathroom breaks. Beyond some characters and a few key scenes I knew I wanted to write, I didn't have much. In the past, I'd struggle with the question of plot; I'd hit the end of a sentence and be overcome with indecision. But by writing in this way—in very long sentences, very long breaths—I never encountered a period, never came to a full stop, and, thus, the question of "what comes next" never came up. I followed the sentence - like a prolonged game of Snake.
MA: You were awarded The Clay Reynolds Novella Prize which highlights one book a year that excels in the novella format. How did it feel to win this award with your first book?
I was so excited! When I got the call, I was working in a very quiet coffee shop—the kind where all you hear is the sound of people typing on their laptops, the occasional creaking furniture—and I made all this noise: dropping the phone, talking too loudly, trying to get outside. I'm pretty sure I interrupted everybody's workflow. I think I cried. It all seemed to come about so quickly—its publication, the award. By that point I'd been working on this book (in more or less isolation) for a few years. And I hate to say this...but it was a nice moment of validation, a feeling of relief. If I hadn't won an award, would the time I spent writing the book feel like a waste? I hope not. For my fragile ego, however, it doesn't hurt.
MA: Did you know when you were at MA that you’d eventually want to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing? Was there any experience or moment during your time in high school that inspired you to follow this path?
I actually wanted to become a professional photographer, and I had a sense that an MFA in Photography could be an option down the line. I spent a lot of time working in the MA dark room. It was wonderful. I recall those classes (with Jenny Rosenberg) as my first lessons in creative writing, and I still often think of writing in photographic terms. I remember taking a poetry class with Sara Houghteling—little did I realize that she'd written an incredibly sensitive and thoughtful book in Pictures at an Exhibition—as well as courses with James Shipman and Bill Meyer that pushed me as a writer (though at that point I wouldn't have used that word) and thinker, and set the groundwork for this path.
MA: What has your journey since MA looked like? Do you anticipate writing another book and what ideas are you interested in exploring next?
School...and more school! After MA, I went to Grinnell College where I studied anthropology, did a brief stint as a grant writer, and, most recently, headed to UNLV for the MFA. These days, I'm at work on two novels. One takes place in The Loneliest Band in France's world. The other is a book inspired by the lives of my grandfather and great-grandparents, negotiating this question: How should the Holocaust be remembered after the survivor generation is gone?