inAuthors: Film Composer Nathan Larson Riffs on The Writing Process
June 1, 2011 by inReads
Nathan Larson, long known as a musician and composer, adds published author to his list of accomplishments with the release of The Dewey Decimal System. Here, he shares in his own unique way just how that felt:
It came as a big surprise to me that I actually wrote a novel, that it is actually getting published, and that it will (hopefully) be read by actual people. The book feels more like a manifestation or an unexpected visit from a cousin you never knew you had. That’s my book The Dewey Decimal System, and moreover, the protagonist, who has taken up residence in my brain and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
I still consider myself a full-time film composer/musician; this remains my primary source of income and a line of work I’ve been slogging away at for many years. Very much like this writing thing, the film scoring business was something I just fell into it by happenstance, and so it was with The Dewey Decimal System.
Ran into my old pal Johnny Temple–who is my publisher and runs Akashic Books–at a party in 2009, renewing a friendship that went back to our teen years when we were both in punk rock bands in D.C. Somehow Johnny saw potential in me, so at a cramped diner on 2nd Avenue, he proposed I write a genre thing, a crime piece. I thought sure, why the hell not.
I started writing without overthinking it. Began from a mental image I had of a man, alone in a suit, sleeping in the empty main branch New York Public Library. That was all I had. Caused him to wake up and it flowed from there.
Before I could freak myself out and derail the process, I had written the thing. It was raw, required all kinds of rewrites etc., but it was basically what’s out there.
The mental process that went into this was really no different from that which I might apply to a musical project. I do believe that there exists a pool of information/material/stuff floating around in the ether, and all you really have to do to create something is tap into this database. The only way I know to get there is to shut off my critical self and just make something, without judging it.
This requires working quickly. I am sure I cut corners on the finer points of “plotting” as a result, but it’s like Raymond Chandler says (and I paraphrase): if you get bored, have a guy run in with a gun. I found the whole thing worked best when I just allowed this character, who certainly took on life in my head, the space to simply run around and do his thing. My job is more journalistic in this sense, I have to chase after him and report what I see. Sounds flaky, but that’s the way it continues to be as I write further into this series.
Watch Nathan Larson talks about composing for films:
About The Author:
Reading and writing in DC.