“If you don’t push against the mirror, how do you know you’re standing in front of it?” asks author Martin Pousson. His PEN award-winning novel Black Sheep Boy, also an L.A. TimesPick of the Week, inspired Susan Larson (NPR The Reading Life) to say: “An unforgettable novel-in-stories about growing up gay in French Acadiana, so vivid and almost fairy tale-like, drawing on folklore from the region, and yet so brutally realistic. Brilliant. I loved this book.” I loved it too, for Pousson’s poetic prose, among other reasons. I’ve been able to ask Martin Pousson a few questions about the novel. His answers reflect his literary acuity.
For about eight years now, I’ve been working on a novel about D’Annunzio, the Italian poet, novelist, playwright, memoirist, journalist, playboy, war hero and (arguably) proto-fascist. More than once I’ve thought the novel was finished, only to re-examine it a few months later and decide that it needed more work. I’ve queried agents about it—quite a few, sixty or seventy—and was surprised that none wanted to represent it. But recently, I took to heart what the most thoughtful agent had said about it (even though he admitted he had not read the entire novel) and began yet another revision—or perhaps more accurately, a rewrite, since it’s virtually a new novel now. In this essay I intend to describe how the novel has developed, where it has gone wrong, and what, if anything, I can hope to do about it.