Yesterday, I posted a review of the amazing Revolver, and today, I am so excited to be able to post my interview with the author, Duane Swierczynski. One of the best things about Revolver is that it does flashbacks RIGHT. Well for me anyway. In recent books I’ve read, they’ve been a hindrance to the narrative, dragging the story down instead of enhancing it. In Revolver, the flashbacks read as complete stories, without any plot points dangling, and driving my frustrations up with every chapter. Read my review.
So, I was busting to know more about how Duane tackled the flashbacks and created a complete narrative around two different flashbacks, in essence. Read on to find out more!
Can you tell us how the idea for Revolver came to be?
I read an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the parole of a man who’d killed two police officers in New Jersey nearly 50 years ago. What struck me was how angry the family was, even after all this time. But I also had been playing around with the idea of a cop family saga, played out over a long period of time. I just couldn’t figure out how to write it.
What about the idea made you realise the book had to be three different timelines to effectively tell the story?
In telling this story, what interested me most were the hidden impacts of events from long ago. You may not consciously realize it, but most of the decisions you make are based on things that happened in your past—sometimes, even before you were born. So I thought that if rotated through some of these timelines, slamming together a chapter set in 2015 against another set in 1965, I could highlight some of these moments. Plus, I like to drive myself crazy while writing novels—and for the longest time, I didn’t know if I would be able to pull the whole thing off.
Flashbacks and different timelines are for me extremely hard to enjoy, but with Revolver, I was captivated by each one: what are the elements that you knew you had to get right/include in each to tell the story?
I hear you! I get bored by traditional flashbacks because it feels like you’ve been pulled out of the story you’ve been enjoying. So my solution was to have three different stories going at once, with none of them feeling like flashbacks (or flashforwards, if you will). And I tried hard to have concrete links between each timeline, so that when you finish one chapter, you can still hear the echoes of it in the next one. Again, I’m still sort of stunned any of this works at all, and I’m thrilled it kept you reading, Verushka!
Was there anything in writing Revolver that you realised you had to be cautious about? Characterisation? Plot elements, etc?
I wanted to be very careful when discussing issues of race, which is not something I’ve ever tackled head-on in my previous books. I wanted to be respectful, but not at the risk of being dishonest. We seemed to have returned to a time of deep unrest here in the U.S. (much like the mid-1960s), and the last thing we need is more bullshit. I’m glad we’re finally talking about race in a very public way – it’s like we’re finally having a national debate about America’s original sin.
Audrey is a complicated, hard-to-like character, but her determination was something I enjoyed immensely. What inspired her? Why was she chosen to be the third POV in your tale?
If the book has a main hero, it’s Audrey. I wanted her to be very different from her father Jim (a hard-ass cop) and her grandfather Stan (an even harder-ass cop). But for all of her faults—her drinking, her carelessness, her anger—she does share that steely-eyed determination. I’m so glad you saw that.
Is there anything you wanted to include in the timelines but couldn’t?
Oh yeah—there’s so much research I left on the table (which is what you’re supposed to do, otherwise, it becomes a slog for the reader). For a while there, I thought this book would be my longest one ever—approaching Stephen King territory. And in fact, my very first draft spent a lot more time with the Columbia Avenue Riots, and my editors encouraged me to cut it way back, as it was slowing down the narrative pace. They were right.