photo credit: Jessica Watson
photo credit: Jessica Watson

Goddard College faculty member Douglas Martin’s sixth book! The Writer interviewed him below:

1. What was the impetus for this book?

I wanted to do something similar to what Anna Kavan had done in her book, Sleep Has His House. I also wanted to revisit the terrain of my first novel, pretending that one of the most formative events of my adolescence was not going to happen.

2. How did you “find” the characters?

In working with characters from my life, including myself, I had to realize what the book needed to know that I would not or could not at that time know.

3. What did you do when the going got tough?

I became more disciplined. I established a certain number of worthwhile pages I had to produce each day (not necessarily a huge number) in order to be finished with a solid draft by a set date. I did math. I would begin first thing in the morning and not let myself go to bed that night until I had reached that goal. Some days you decide to be really inspired at breakfast, in this case.

And just in case you want to know more, here is an excerpt from his interview for Lambda Literary:

“Douglas A. Martin opens Once You Go Back (Seven Stories Press, 2009) with an unusual instruction. “Pretend you are my sister.” In this semi-autobiographical narrative (his sixth book) the speaker addresses reader directly, forging a distinctive and riveting bond between the two. Martin remodels the infrastructure of the “novel” as he blends truth with invention, hindsight with foresight, speaking through an indelible nameless, ageless narrator.

Its chapters mimic the fractures and boundless associations of memory while placing You steadily at its center. “You are bound not to remember much of this, like later there will be things you’ll try not to.” Martin’s style contains traces of Augusten Burroughs and Anne Carson—he recounts the most peculiar moments of an exceedingly peculiar past with heightened lyricism and sage wisdom—while striking authentic, innovative notes of his own.

ZP: Once You Go Back [OYGB] is labeled “a novel” but it pulls from various sources: memoir, dramatic monologueinsofar as there are no external voicesand even epic poem. Do you consider your work hybrid, or do you reject the idea of genre and seek to create something less classifiable?

DM: Once someone asked me what I wrote and I said simply, “Literature,” because I wanted my writing accepted on its own terms.  I don’t gravitate toward the form of poetry so much…but I feel compelled by it. I pay attention to the sentence with a kind of poetic mind.  The novel is a genre I want to debase in a different way than I would a poem.

I like the reader to join me and make decisions about what’s happening in the narrative.  I’m at a point in my writing where I’m trying to become more confident with this. I think about Virginia Woolf, how she creates new patterns and meaning-making over time in her novels, even changing tenses in the same sentence in Jacob’s Room. That practice has been lost in literature today.

One thing that exempts OYGB from memoir are the devices I’ve come up with to tell a certain story. [In memoir] there’s a thesis statement and everything rigged to the realization or fulfillment of the thesis. This would be an autobiographical novel. With the word “novel,” I think there’s an understanding decisions are made that replace and refigure truth. I might take liberties with how I arrange information, with what I’m prioritizing—which seems like a fiction-writing endeavor.  But I don’t make anything up.”

– See more at:

And have you read…Once You Go Back?
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