Congratulations to local author Eric Goodman, who recently won an Independent Publishers Book Awards' Gold Medal for Best Fiction in the Mid-Atlantic. Goodman won for his book, "Tracks," a series of short stories built around the passengers on an Amtrak train.
I moderated a panel with Goodman at last year's Baltimore Book Festival, where he spoke of the challanges of weaving the stories together. He also described the process in an article in the Towson Times; here's an excerpt:
Back around 2006 [Goodman] had a collection of disconnected short stories which, through a lengthy revision process, coalesced into a novel.
"At some point I realized that several of the stories I was working on were all coincidentally set on trains, and it occurred to me that there was a way to do two things at once, since I also wanted to be working on a novel as well as short stories," he said.
"I gradually developed the idea of a train ride and of the passengers affecting each other in different ways," he added. "In my first draft, the stories and characters were a lot less connected; they were just individual stories set on the same Amtrak train," he said. "But as I rewrote it, I would take a side character in one story and replace him or her with a main character from another story, and I made sure that the train conductor appeared in each story. So it was in layers as I was rewriting that I connected them a little more each time."
A couple years ago, when Goodman found a literary agent who was interested in "Tracks," he'd already reworked the book two or three times, and thought his work was done.
"But my agent, had a lot of suggestions for revisions," he said. "Then when my agent found a publisher a year or so later, the publisher also asked for more revisions. But it all benefited the book."
At this point, Goodman already has a second novel placed with his agent, and it's quite different from "Tracks." Its working title is "Womb."
"I've always been fascinated by books that have a narrator with an unusual point of view, so I wrote a book that's told entirely from the point of view of a child in utero," he said.
The book, he said, "takes the perspective that when a child is still in utero he or she is still connected to a greater consciousness."