A Conversation with Robert Kloss
INTERVIEW BY EDMUND SANDOVAL
INTERVIEW BY EDMUND SANDOVAL
ROBERT KLOSS is the author of the novels, The Revelator and The Alligators of Abraham, and co-author of The Desert Places (with Amber Sparks and illustrated by Matt Kish). He lives in Colorado.
EDMUND SANDOVAL: Let’s talk about your book, The Revelator. (If you’re new around here, you can find my review here.) Where did this book come from?
ROBERT KLOSS: I’m not sure. Every book has many fathers and mothers. I know I was very interested in the Book of Job at the time and the story of Abraham and Isaac. And I know I was very interested in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. So I think those texts provided the base for what the novel would become, and as I learned more about the project and became more confident in my direction, I took on more influences and went more directly into researching the topic of religion in America.
When did it first hit you: I’m going to write a novel based on the exploits of Joseph Smith!
I was probably five months into the book before that hit me. Maybe more. For me the book was always an amalgamation of different prophets and preachers and cult leaders in American history, so I never exactly meant to write “Joseph Smith.” But Joseph Smith’s story is the largest of them, and so I think it kind of happened against my will that Smith cannibalized many of the other false prophets and revelators. There’s a page midway through the book when we get Joseph’s name for the first time—and I believe for the only time—and so whenever I wrote that page is when I decided to just go with it and make the connection fairly explicit.
How’d you decide upon the structure of the book? The flash chapters?
The structure was created fairly organically. I don’t impose a structure (if I do impose one) until I’m into the editing process, and then it’s a matter of understanding the kind of rhythm I want to create. I like flash chapters, partly because they allow for a denser, lyrical style to the prose. And they liberate me from feeling like I need to build out scenes. Most of the book is written in a compressed style, less compressed than my first book, but still fairly compressed. The shorter chapters allow some breathing room in-between dense blocks of text.
When did you decide to go for the second person?
Oh, well before this book was started. I think there was a moment fairly early on when I wrote the first page of the actual book, not the prologue, and it all more or less came out as it was published. And it felt right. And I’ve learned to trust my feelings when it comes to writing—I don’t make many conscious determinations. There was no epiphany or grand moment, just a sense that the page I had written was how I wanted to write the entire book. And my first novel is also in the second person, so it was not such a dramatic concept for me. I maybe had to convince myself that I was allowed to do it more than once, but I think that was a very short interior debate.
The book is pretty unrelenting in its bleakness. Did you find it difficult to find that darkness as you worked on the book?
No. Honestly, bleak is my natural mode. And by that, I mean the world I depicted in this book is more or less how I see the actual world. So I don’t know that the book is extraordinarily bleak compared to actual life, especially considering the time and the events I depicted. As I write this response, many people are actually considering voting for Donald Trump as President. It’s a bleak world.
Who’d you look toward for inspiration?
Got anything else cooking at present?
I’ve finished the follow-up to The Revelator. It’s a novel called, The Woman Who Lived Amongst the Cannibals, and I think it’s a savage, weird, and (hopefully) funny book. And I’m knee-deep into a new manuscript, an untitled novel, about a young woman who dies and returns to life. This is strange for me, but I’m also planning out the novel I’ll write after that, a book based on a kind of sci-fi story I wrote five years ago, called “Beneath the Light of an Exploding City.”
Will you show me the golden plates?
If I had them I would sell them, for sure.
EDMUND SANDOVAL lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in The Minnesota Review, The Common, Fourteen Hills, and The Mud Season Review, among others. He earned his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
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