A way to spend ‘At­lantic Nights’ this sum­mer

The Compass - - NEWS - BY JOSH PEN­NELL

It sounds a lot more threat­en­ing than it ac­tu­ally is. At least for the reader.

It’s called a se­rial novel, it’s ti­tled At­lantic Nights and it’s go­ing to be free on The Aurora web­site all sum­mer long.

TC Me­dia’s Rus­sell Wanger­sky — who is not only an award win­ning jour­nal­ist but also a good hand at pick­ing up lit­er­ary awards — is writ­ing a piece of a novel ev­ery day and post­ing it on­line. Be­fore Wanger­sky takes on the task and takes us into a new novel world of his cre­ation, he an­swered a few ques­tions about the project.

What is a se­rial novel?

It’s a novel that runs a chap­ter a day six days a week be­tween 400 and 500 words. It’s go­ing to run from the 15 of June right up un­til the end of Au­gust. It might run a lit­tle longer depend­ing on whether or not I can’t get out of the story fast enough. It’s a chunk of a novel ev­ery sin­gle day.

How much fore­thought have you put into the story? Do you know where you

want it to go?

I have an idea of where I want it to go. The con­cept is pretty straight­for­ward. It’s the story of a woman with Alzheimer's and her kids are deal­ing with the fact that her longterm mem­o­ries — this is of­ten the case with Alzheimer’s, your long-term mem­o­ries are re­ally clear — but she loses short-term mem­o­ries. She loses more and more of them. And one of the things she’s los­ing is the fact that her hus­band has died. The kids, ev­ery time they tell her, she breaks down. So they de­cide in­stead of telling her the truth, they’ll tell her a dif­fer­ent story ev­ery­day about where Tom is and why Tom isn’t at the hos­pi­tal where she is. She’s in ex­tended care. It’s kind of loosely based in some ways on “One Thou­sand and One Nights” or the “Ara­bian Nights” cy­cle in that they tell a story ev­ery­day. In the “Ara­bian Nights” they told a story ev­ery­day so that the sto­ry­teller would stay alive and in this they’re telling a story ev­ery­day so that Tom stays alive.

This seems like a good way to plan a se­rial novel — by cre­at­ing a sto­ry­line that re­quires a new story ev­ery­day?

That’s the thing I'm find­ing most in­ter­est­ing about it. You al­most have to do a cliffhanger ev­ery­day but you can’t do a cliffhanger ev­ery­day the same way. It would just get bor­ing. So there has to be sort of a hook at the end of ev­ery seg­ment yet at the same time it has the full struc­ture of a novel.

Like I said, I have a pretty good idea of where it’s go­ing and where it’s end­ing but some of it is es­sen­tially writ­ten live. The part that’s dif­fer­ent about this and writ­ing a full novel is that if you have a re­ally good idea late in the process that you sud­denly want to build in, you can go back and change stuff at the be­gin­ning and fit it in. The prob­lem with this is ev­ery­thing is cast in stone.

Have you done any­thing

like this be­fore?

No. No. It's been done a cou­ple of times in the past. The Ed­mon­ton Jour­nal did it about nine years ago. Se­rial nov­els used to be huge. In the Bri­tish press, ev­ery Dick­ens novel was a se­rial. I just thought it would be an in­ter­est­ing thing to try and I thought it was an in­ter­est­ing idea to have a look at. One of the things about it is that I write an At­lantic re­gional col­umn and Tom — the hus­band — is a man­u­fac­turer’s agent. So all of the sto­ries that his kids are telling are sto­ries of his trav­els around the At­lantic prov­inces.

Do you feel like this might be brain­storm­ing for some­thing you might use dif­fer­ently down the road or is it just

go­ing to be a com­plete unit?

I think it will just be a com­plete unit. One of the things with when I work on ei­ther a short story or a novel, I re­ally don’t want to know how it ends un­til it ends be­cause once I know com­pletely how some­thing ends, I kind of lose in­ter­est in it. There are writ­ers who love the edit­ing process. The re­fin­ing and im­prov­ing. I don’t. I like the first draft and get tired of it quickly. I don’t want to be work­ing over it and work­ing over it. My only re­ally worry is what if I can’t in the end ... if I can’t sud­denly fig­ure out any­thing else to do. I’m paint­ing my­self into a cor­ner and the cor­ner is the end­ing. And if the end­ing doesn’t work, I’m gonna be jammed.

“At­lantic Nights” starts on­line June 15, with a new chap­ter be­ing pub­lished ev­ery day, six times a week.

The se­rial wraps up at the end of Au­gust.

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