A way to spend ‘Atlantic Nights’ this summer
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.