BookPage contributor Alden Mudge has been interviewing authors for more than 20 years. In a guest post, he reflects on his March cover story interview with Lauren Groff, whose second novel Arcadia is one of the spring's most anticipated releases. It follows the life of a boy who, after being raised in a commune, must learn to navigate the outside world.

More than any other writer I have interviewed in recent years, Lauren Groff seems to use fiction writing as a way to discover what she really thinks and feels. In the case of Arcadia, her beautifully chiaroscuro second novel, her movement from momentary despair about contemporary life to a more transcendent view, she says, was a slow process.

“I have no idea what I’m doing until the third full draft,” she told me during our conversation. “And I like not knowing. I try to keep it as loose as possible because if I don’t, if it gets set in stone, it is hard to change a book as it grows on its own organic path. . . . For some reason when the cursor’s blinking on my screen and everything looks like it’s in print, it feels engraved, set in stone. It feels like it can’t be played around with, and in the play is the discovery. The joy of playing is what I love."

So Lauren writes “in longhand for the first two or so drafts, until I feel pretty comfortable with it. So I’ve got heaps and heaps of the hardbound little notepads and legal pads everywhere. Probably,” she says laughing, “there are two novels in here that I’ve lost because they’re in longhand and I haven’t transcribed them yet.”

I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to seeing those two or three novels drift up to the top of the heap.


Read more about Lauren Groff, including a review of her debut, The Monsters of Templeton.

Author photo by Sarah McKune

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