How do you write a novel about some of our society’s least sympathetic members? Russell Banks found out just how hard it might be when he wrote his book, Lost Memory of Skin, about a colony of homeless sex offenders. In the video above, he describes his writing process and how he is able to craft characters that readers might not necessarily feel drawn to at the onset of the book:
While writing the book, I was just simply following my own deep personal curiosity and need to understand a life very, very different from my own. Once the book enters the public world, of course, then I have to consider the fact, well, probably not everybody has the same curiosity and interest and desire to understand that I do. And you hope the Kid is sympathetic. And, you know, he’s funny. He’s honest. He’s basically honest and decent, and he wants to be a good person—and is trying very hard. He’s also ashamed and guilty. And a good deal of his effort in the earlier parts of the book is to try to separate out shame and guilt, because he’s internalized society’s view of him as someone who is beneath any kind of civil or personal consideration.
View the entire interview below.