The Future of Fiction: Two Dollar Radio and America’s Young Novelists

Two Dollar Radio is one of the very best contemporary independent literary publishers, in that they seem to genuinely point the way forward for American literature: their work is hip and avant-garde, yes, blurring genres and feeling on the cutting edge of fiction, yet their books are also rooted in the simplest of things: character, plot, image. The books tend to be slim but ambitious, novels you can read in a sitting and then think about for months. Their authors are new, young, looking for new ways to tell stories. In the last few years, many of these stories are astounding: THE ORANGE EATS CREEPS by Grace Krilanovich, A QUESTIONABLE SHAPE by Bennett Sims, MADE TO BREAK by D. Foy, CRYSTAL EATERS by Shane Jones...and plenty more.

Two of our favorite books this year have been Two Dollar Radio releases from young novelists: Sarah Gerard’s BINARY STAR and Colin Winnette’s HAINTS STAY, novels that push at the boundaries of form and genre. We are honored to host both of these authors at Brazos Bookstore this fall, so to highlight these great books, let’s take a look back at two of our earlier web features from 2015: first, an interview with Winnette; and second, a staff chat about Gerard’s novel. Take a look!

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An excerpt from Lawrence Lenhart’s Q&A with Colin Winnette:

Brazos Bookstore: Can you speak to the culture of violence in this world? How do you decide upon the parameters of this culture? Is there such a thing as too much violence? 

Colin Winnette: For me, I don’t think there is a limit to the darkness of this world. These characters are still pretty lucky considering what could have happened. Part of why I was drawn to the Western is because it feels like there’s a lot of struggle for law and order, this underlying chaos we’re trying to build fences around. I was interested in a world where the depths of how horrible we can be to one another—not just emotionally, but something like cannibalism—is able to be played out.

HAINTS STAY is willing to let what could happen happen, but I wasn’t interested in writing violence for the sake of violence. I’m not sure any book is, though some may read that way. For me, the most compelling parts of the book are those like when Bird and Mary are sitting on the well, and she tells him her real name. It’s cheesy and sentimental, maybe, but it was really emotional for me to write. I found the moments where it’s not violent to be the most enjoyable. But part of what makes [those moments] enjoyable to me is that they manage to happen in this dark, dark place.

I think with anything—be it violent or romantic scenes—the writer has to earn it in some way, and that has to be personal and unique to the world they’re making. I hope that I earned every scene in this book, but that’s ultimately up to whoever’s reading it.

BB: What does it feel like to move on from characters like these who have had these intense experiences? Are they in a good place? 

CW: I don’t know if I’d call them good, but I think the characters, the ones who survive, all kind of wind up in situations that are very far from where they were in the beginning of the book, and hopefully in a way that honors their individual selves and their ability to evolve. They have this kind of personhood that’s sliding around and reacting to things but there’s still some kind of core. It’s just liquid. I left them when I had a good sense of where they were going, which I think goes back to your original question about what’s revealed and what isn’t. I think the book gives you everything you need to get to know these characters and how their lives might play out. Although if there’s one thing that’s abundantly clear about this world, it’s that nothing’s a sure thing.

To read the full Q&A, click here.

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An excerpt from Ben and Annalia’s Staff Chat on BINARY STAR by Sarah Gerard:

Ben: It’s interesting, because there’s really no “setting” in the first thirty pages—no “plot,” per se. We just know that the narrator and her boyfriend are orbiting near each other, and she’s telling the reader some pretty direct shit about her life—about her bulimia, her depression, her angst—even if it seems removed from time. How do you process that as a reader? Do you try to build some kind of a narrative out of it, or do you just take it as an onslaught?

Annalia: I mostly followed the emotional arc. That’s always how it is for me. When you think about and remember things, it’s always jumbled—always more about sensation than about coherent reality. The first part of BINARY STAR captures that. But now after reading the book, I feel like that first section is maybe just a broader picture of the rest of the novel—an overview, almost—and the other chapters fill in the details. In terms of form, I didn’t know at first whether John would be a character that we get to see, and whether he would get to speak for himself or it would always be filtered through her brain, the I/you narrative. I think the strongest thing about the first section—and the whole novel, really—is illustrating how you can feel even more alone with another person than you do on your own sometimes.

Ben: I know what you mean. What I liked so much about the first thirty pages was the way the narrator seems to talk about, and address, a person [John] who never gets described, never gets to be heard, never appears in a conventional scene with dialogue and stuff—is basically never there. Although the narrator talks about another person, that person is, at first, an absence in the book.

Annalia: Exactly. Because he isn’t there, it allows the narrator to express all her contradictory feelings about him. She doesn’t have to commit to loving him or not. She can just blurt everything out, and I really connected with that: not knowing what you think and being generally bewildered, the idea of looking at a situation and not knowing what is the most broken thing or when it started breaking.

To read the full staff chat, click here.

Colin Winnette and Sarah Gerard will read on Tuesday, October 13 at 7 P.M.

Binary Star Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781937512255
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Two Dollar Radio - January 13th, 2015

Haints Stay Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781937512323
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Two Dollar Radio - June 2nd, 2015

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