by Paul Evan Hughes
purchase from Silverthought:
conducted via email, 30 March 2006:
Was there anything you wrote in Broken that you later looked
back on and wondered "how did that get there?"
There's a scene near the beginning of the final chapter. Without
spoiling the end of the book, I'll just call it the "kitchen
scene." I was re-reading the chapter while finishing the book,
and that scene just jumped out at me like a punch to the chest;
I don't remember writing it. I can tie most scenes to a particular
event in my real life, and although the kitchen scene mirrors my
reality most closely, I can't remember typing it out, and that might
be why that particular scene carries with it a deeper emotional
resonance. Nothing happened to generate that scene; I just woke
are other sequences that surprised me while editing, or just lines
that stuck out and made me take notice. I know that I had to be
in a specific frame of mind to write this book, so sometimes that
generated some late-night pills- and alcohol-driven material that
I didn't remember.
Do you write best in the morning or late at night?
I can't remember ever sitting down to write during the day. When
there's sunlight, I can't focus on my own writing. You can psychoanalyze
that all you want.
Some writers edit as they go, others at the end of things... Which
do you prefer and why?
an editor, I wish more writers would edit as they go, but I can't
say that I prefer that process. For me, any substantial writing
project becomes a constant process of revision. People who read
AE or Broken in serial form on silverthought.com might
be surprised just how different the end products are.
Tell me where you felt your way into the rape scene (group rape
with the soldiers) in your body as you were writing it? Did you
get in the head of a rapist? What was going through your head as
you wrote this?
wanted to create a sequence that would finally give the readers
some sense of justification for Maire's war. I'd danced around her
childhood with hints at cannibalism and incest and horrible, horrible
things, but I knew I needed one scene that would "humanize"
this character that I'd set up as a monster. The scene was heavily
influenced by the shit-eating, rape-for-hire pornotopias of Samuel
Delany's The Mad Man and Hogg, both of which are gorgeous,
sensual books that relate disgusting, brutal events with the most
beautiful voice. With this scene, I wanted to present a transgression
beyond any I'd written before, something clinical and matter-of-fact
yet lyrical. The rape scene has generated the most negative feedback
of anything in the ST trilogy, and to me, that means it works. Maire
is the antagonist, but the scene forces people to care about her
and maybe confront the fact that her actions were justified. There
are no good guys/bad guys.
Did you ever feel as though the world of Broken was more
real than this world? If so, how did you get back to reality?
is more reality written into Broken than anyone who isn't
me will ever know. Some will be able to read themselves into characters,
will be able to recount events or things I've said or statements
I've stolen. For a good six months, finishing and editing the work,
the realities of Broken and my everyday life merged to a
dangerous point. There's a point where you can lose yourself in
the work, talk to yourself and try to change the outside world by
writing another line of dialogue, another scene where things work
out for the better. There's the danger of letting a character bleed
into a real person and interacting with the character instead of
confronting reality. In many ways, I used Broken to at least
attempt closure for the events that generated the book, whether
those events were the suicide of a best friend or the loss of a
partner or the dissolution of a childhood home. What you read in
this book is a public meditation on the reconciliation of reality
with desire. The final chapter suggests a resolution to that conflict.
Do you agree/disagree with this statement?: Writing requires a certain
level of selfishness. Expound.
could interpret a substantial writing practice as the ultimate selfishness;
presuming that anyone would want to read what you've created demands
a healthy ego. My writing practices requires that I shut myself
off from the world for periods of time; whether that's selfish,
that depends on whether anyone cares to interact with me. I suppose
I could work in a soup kitchen or knit socks for the elderly with
all that time I use to write, but I don't like people. So I'm selfish.
Do you tend to write in gluts or in daily dribbles?
the last four months, I haven't written at all, neither gluts nor
dribbles. When I'm regularly writing, though, the writing tends
to come in gluts. I finished writing the last two chapters of Broken
in a handful of weeks, as opposed to the two-plus years the other
chapters took. I wrote most of the final chapter of An End
in one sitting.
What is the one emotion you'd say best propelled the passion of
would be easy to say hate. It would also be easy to say love. Both
answers work, but I think that writing Broken required both,
or at least played with the intersections of those emotions. If
anything, writing the book taught me how many times the emotions
of love and hate merge. I'm reminded of the first line of Written
on the Body: "Why is the measure of love loss?" If
loss can be considered an emotion, one that successfully blends
hate and love, then that is the underlying passion of Broken,
the loss of a friend, the loss of a partner, the loss of childhood
concepts of safety and home and forever.
Is there a minor character in this work that you'd have liked to
expand more on or perhaps have be the main character in another
think the potential existed at one point for entire books about
minor-major characters like Jean Reynald or James Richter, but now
I think I've effectively killed any chance of that happening. I'd
also considered writing a book about the friendship between Whistler
and Hank, maybe bring in Honeybear Brownbut it would have
to be a comedy, and I'm not sure I could pull off a comedy at this
point in my life.
about the question further, most people would have no idea that
the decision to tie An End into Enemy and generate
Broken can be traced back to the inclusion of Jean Reynald
in AE. Until that point, AE stood alone and I'd never
really considered the silver as the machine sea from Enemy.
kicked around the idea of having some sort of collaborative project
in which authors would take characters from the ST trilogy and write
their own books about them, but that seems big-headed; most people
haven't read the books and wouldn't want to use my characters. That
and there's the danger of the project reading like fan-fiction for
a universe that has very few fans.
What character in Broken do you least like, and is it based
on one person or a compilation thereof?
a character has a name, there's a good chance I like them. I reserve
my negative emotions for those characters without names: the drummer,
the painter, the poet. These are real people, although they bleed
together, become hybrids. Anyone who knows me can put names to characters,
and some have asked me why I've not named names in Brokensince
I did in AE. The people who need to know already know.
What are your thoughts on truth in fiction? In other words, I feel
that great fiction must be based on certain truths or experiences
of the author, otherwise the fiction doesn't feel authentic. Do
you agree? Disagree?
think it's impossible [or difficult to successfully] write something
that is completely devoid of personal truth. I can't imagine a writer
not blurring into a creative piece. I'm relatively confident that
I could write a repair manual for forced-air furnaces that didn't
contain too much of my voice or experience, but in terms of fiction,
I can't subtract myself from characters who are essentially pieces
Following up on that one... An American judge stated that once something
is claimed fact it can't be determined private property. Fiction,
however can be. Agree? Disagree?
be more interested in James Frey's answer to this question than
my own. Scratch thatI'd
like to hear from Fred Exley, author of A Fan's Notes, a
brilliant disavowed memoir.
What do you most love about your writing? Why?
I don't know if there's anything I
love about my writing, but I can appreciate that it's often brutal
and funny and heartbreaking and bleak and rich and intricate and
simple at once.
I was an art major; I don't know creative writing terms. I've just
tried to develop a writing practice that speaks from experience
and punches the chest and cuts through to the heart. I want to offer
readers a look into my brain and maybe a glimpse into who I am,
and I hope I've succeeded. Broken is a hard book to read,
and it was a hard book to write, because of the events that generated
it, the dead people who inhabit it, the losses bound by the pages.
I love that many readers have taken something away from it, see
themselves somewhere in there somewhere, and are forgiving enough
not to bitch about the storylines I never tied up and the characters
I've never developed fully, because this book isn't about answers
or tidy resolutions.
What do you most hate about your writing? Why?
are weapons, and I've used them as such more times than I care to
admit. Especially with this book, I hate that I've used my writing
practice to enact closures instead of confronting those people directly.
I also hate that my writing sometimes makes people cry. But then
again, I also love that. A lot of me hates my writing because I
try to do too much at once, often leave characters hanging, let
complete storylines dissolve without development. My writing style,
as frantic and non-linear as it is, is far too contorted and confusing
for the casual reader, but it's a good reflection of how my mind
works and how I live my life.
What is the one thing in your life that must remain consistent for
your writing practice to thrive?
Being a recluse who tends to have
friends who die and partners who leave him for no good reason helps.
Short answer: loss.
Do you ever get the fear that Broken may be your last great
don't think it's great. But I think it more than likely that Broken
will be my last work for a long time; it's difficult to devote twelve
years to a universe and then turn to something else. And I can't
imagine writing another book that so directly reflects who I am;
I won't be including myself as a character in another book. This
is the last call.
Do you ever write naked?
That's a question that no one should want to know the answer to.
Good old fashioned nightmare fuel.
Noblit Goodall is working on her MA in Transfomative Language Arts
at Goddard College. She writes for Adbusters Magazine,
where she bitches about consumerism and politics.
conducted via email, 31 March 2006:
Laughton: Why "Broken"?
The original title was And All Broken Tomorrows. Too long.
For a while, the book became Broken Tomorrows. Still too
long. Halved it to Broken. That word sums up the state of
the person who wrote it and the state of the two colliding realities
depicted in the book. You can read into it whatever you like: broken
heart, broken mind, broken record.
What is your favorite line from Broken? Least favorite?
One sticks out: "No matter how much you were to me, I'll use
the us we were to pay the rent if I can't use you as a pillow."
That's my favorite and least favorite line, all in one. It says
everything anyone needs to know about my writing practice and relationship
Favorite/least favorite scene?
The "kitchen scene" from the end of the book is a favorite,
although I don't remember writing it. And the final sequence, which
I won't detail here because I don't want to spoil the book for anyone.
It's a stark, lonely unraveling.
are too many least favorite scenes to list, but the one that is
personally most heartbreaking for me is the final chapter opener,
the "Are you leaving?" scene. Although I think I wrote
it well, it's a least favorite scene because it happened, and life
would be better if it hadn't.
Favorite/least favorite character?
Alina is probably my favorite character. She started pure, but then
reality started to bleed in, a process I detail in the text. People
who know me will know the basis for the character. I don't really
have least favorites, except for the unnamed characters and those
I barely developed. With over eighty characters in the book, I probably
should have developed some better: Berg, Leif, and Roman, Cork.
The "Autumn's Scion" chapter is filled with untapped potentials,
and it's somewhat embarrassing to read it now and realize how I
just pounded through the plot dumps. I should have done better.
In his review of your work, Mark Brand said you more successfully
incorporated yourself as a character in Broken than Stephen
King did in The Dark Tower. Agree? Disagree?
I don't think Stephen King started writing the Dark Tower series
intending to write himself in at some point, so it was an awkward
inclusion. It didn't ruin the series for me; that honor goes to
EEEEEEEEEE! and the magical tongueless kid who couldn't draw himself
a new tongue. I started writing myself in by name in AE,
and by the time Broken rolled around, I knew it would be
about me. I hope that was a more natural [and acceptable] development
than Roland wandering around Maine.
It takes a lot of balls to publish a book that lifts characters
and dialogue and events from real life, especially given recent
conflicts regarding the concept of memoir/fiction. Did you consult
with any of the people involved during your writing process, or
seek their permission?
I didn't name names in this book, although anyone familiar with
me will know exactly who some of the unnamed characters are. That's
about as much consideration for the real people involved as I can
give. There are real, named people in the book, but I didn't seek
permission from anyone to use their names or depictions. That may
come back to bite me in the ass, but it's a risk I'm willing to
take. I did ask Samuel Delany for permission to use his writing
as an epigraph. I didn't ask the drummer for his permission to say
I hate him.
From my understanding of the writing process for the Silverthought
trilogy, each book represents a certain stage of romantic development,
and each book can be read as a metaphor for a failed relationship.
To your knowledge, has any of the three women depicted in these
books ever actually read "their" book?
At the center of Broken is a chapter called "Heiligenschein,"
which stands apart from the rest of the book with different formatting.
Although there are some cross-references to the rest of the book,
it reads almost as a completely different project. Why did you choose
to include this section?
The "Heiligenschein" chapter comes directly from my graduate
portfolio, which was actually much larger than the chapter itself.
I wrote it as a report from the year 2064 after the events of the
Silverthought trilogy. Anyone interested in reading the whole thing
can drive to Goddard College in VT and read it in the archives.
I included segments of it here because it speaks to the hope that
things eventually heal and humanity continues after the silver plague.
You've said before that an editor asked you to remove two poems
from Enemy. In Broken, you include an entire chapter
that is an extended poem, and even make reference to the editor's
request. "Among the Living" gives the readers a better
understanding of you, but like "Heiligenschein" it doesn't
seem to tie into the rest of the book. Why did you include it?
I included it as a gift to a former partner, a brilliant poet. I
could just as easily have removed the chapter, but she's an integral
part of the book, a part of Alina and Hope and Maire. "Among
the Living" stands as a tribute to the part of my life she
Music is an important part of your life. What songs or artists did
you listen to the most while writing Broken?
iTunes tells me: Cat Power: "I Found a Reason", Sense
Field: "Are You Okay?", GMR: "Almost There (OK)",
George Strait: "Run", Damien Rice: "I Remember",
Lou Barlow: "Imagined Life", Leonard Cohen: "Famous
Blue Raincoat", Desert City Soundtrack: "Batteries",
Interpol: "The New", Cursive: "Excerpts from Various
Notes", Joseph Arthur: "Honey and the Moon", Jonatha
Brooke: "If I Told You So", Alison Krauss: "New Favorite",
Stuart: "2:1", Beth Gibbons: "Resolve", Colin
Hay: "I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over You", and
about a million other songs I listen to obsessively.
What Sci-Fi books are you reading right now?
Besides the upcoming Silverthought Press books, I haven't read a
sf book in a while, except "academic" sf essays, On
SF by Thomas Disch and Speculations on Speculation: Theories
of Science Fiction by James Gunn.
Certain scenes from Broken are very cinematic. You've written
screenplays before. Do you have any intention of turning Silverthought
into a screenplay?
I finished two-thirds of a screenplay for Enemy in 1999 or
2000. I don't intend to finish that or write screenplays for the
There is a stunning scene that opens and ends the final chapter.
How closely does that sudden dose of "reality" match your
day to day life?
Broken deals quite openly with issues such as mental illness
and suicide. Readers unfamiliar (and familiar) with your life may
feel uncomfortable with such an open discussion of the darker side
of the human experience. What would you say, if anything, to those
readers? Should we be concerned for you?
I write about a lot of things that most people don't like to think
about. Writing is a way for me to confront those issues and encourage
a dialogue. I've dealt with suicide and clinical depression and
watched mental illness and suffered the aftermath. It makes no sense
to me to deny that part of myself or of the human experienceit's
there. Some people won't appreciate Broken or books like
it, and I understand that; it's not easy. Broken isn't an
easy book, but if someone out there reads it and sees a part of
himself in it and chooses not to take his life, I can live with
that. If anything, I want people to take this from the book: we
can keep going.
To say that Broken is a dark book would be an understatement.
There are however moments in the book that hint at a different side
of you. What has been the happiest moment of your life so far?
Loaded, impossible question. The closest thing to happiest that
comes to mind right now is a moment when I walked into Heathrow
and heard my partner's voice over the crowd: "Mr. Hughes!"
Saw her waiting. It was a moment of unable to speak, tears threatening,
heart pounding, this is what love is. Got luggage, stood outside
and smoked, wrapped together, the blue dress, the box of matches
with a flower on it. The cynics won't appreciate the sap, but it
was a perfect moment, and that's what this is all about, a collection
of beautiful, fragile moments. Because I assume a happiest moment
would be one we'd want to experience again forever, I'll pick that
moment in London, the scents of smoke and her, the texture of a
dress and warmth of skin and the relief that I'd made it across
an ocean to be with her, and life was possibilities and us. Not
many people can point out a specific happiest moment, but I'm one
of the luckiest because I can. Everything has changed now, but I'll
always have that moment.
Of the three books of the Silverthought trilogy which do you feel
is the best?
I love and hate each of them for different reasons, but I am most
satisfied with Broken.
Do you think there are any more Silverthought books in your head
to write? What's up next for your writing practice?
I'm done with the silver. I can't imagine anywhere else that I could
take that universe, so it's over. I haven't written anything in
months, but eventually I'll finish The Grange. Beyond that,
I don't have any more novels waiting to get out.
One of my favorite "characters" is the (apparently) last
minute addition of your anonymous cat. Does he still resent you?
My cat is still an asshole.
Laughton is a web developer from Burlington, VT. His previous work
includes Metasemiotics: Codes within Code and Ruins.
you would like to interview Paul Evan Hughes or any other Silverthought
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