Q&A with Nick Arvin, author of The Reconstructionist

As I noted in my review of his latest novel, The Reconstructionist, Nick Arvin really captured my attention with Articles of War.  He was gracious enough to participate in a Q&A for that novel so I was excited about getting his perspective this time around.  Luckily for me, he agreed to take some time to answer some questions.

First, a brief bio:

Nick Arvin, American Author

Nick Arvin, American Author (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nick Arvin is an American engineer and writer. Born in North Carolina, he was raised in Michigan, and graduated from the University of Michigan and Stanford University with degrees in mechanical engineering, and from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He has worked in forensic engineering and accident reconstruction.

Now, on to the questions.

1) They say that all writing is autobiographical. What made you decide to tackle forensic engineering or accident reconstruction – something you have direct experience with – in your second novel?

I did work in accident reconstruction; I sort of stumbled into it. I had worked as an engineer for Ford, but I quit that to do an MFA in creative writing, and then ended up living in Denver on some grant money for a year after the MFA. When the grant ran out, I started looking around for a job in engineering. I’d worked in the automotive industry, but there isn’t much of an automotive industry in Denver. Then I realized that there were a couple of forensic engineering companies that did automotive accident reconstruction. So I sent them my resume, and one of the resumes happened to land on the desk of a guy who’s a reader and was impressed that I had published a book of short stories. Soon I had a job.

I knew from the first day that I wanted to write a novel about the work — the work itself was basically a process of creating little mini-stories about the accidents we were working on, and these accidents were dramatic and tragic, and the process of creating these mini-stories was really interesting, but also discomforting in the way that it required applying cold, analytical techniques to examining terribly human situations. So, the work had all these interesting layers of narrative and emotional disconnect, and I knew I couldn’t cover all of it in a short story. So I collected material from the job in a notebook for a couple of years, and then began to try to figure out how to structure it into a novel. Writing the novel took about seven years altogether.

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Where Are the Conservative Novelists?

Mark Goldblatt wonders:

You have to wonder, under the circumstances, whether the ambitions of a young conservative novelist would be unreservedly encouraged and diligently nurtured in a contemporary MFA program.

If the answer is no, then the ramifications are profound — and profoundly disturbing. For the issue here runs deeper than the run-of-the-mill ideological browbeating that goes on in college classrooms across the country. Students can always weigh their professors’ rants against more moderate views, and indeed contrary ones, that they hear off campus. But MFA programs now seem to exercise a gatekeeper function. If you don’t pass through one of them, your odds of literary recognition are vastly diminished. It may be that we’re cutting off future generations of conservative novelists at the knees.

That’s not fair. Fairness, though, is a secondary consideration. If conservatives are being denied entrée into the halls of literary production — not by a sinister gentlemen’s agreement but by an inbred ideological disdain — then what we’re cutting off is not just a group of writers, or a political agenda, but an entire sensibility.

Be sure to read the whole thing.

National Review Online Literary Links

A couple of literature/bookish related links from our friends over at NRO:

– First, they have a symposium on Shakespeare:

Nobody knows precisely when William Shakespeare was born. It was in 1564, probably a few days before April 26, which definitely was the date of his baptism, as recorded in the parish church at Stratford-upon-Avon. The Bard’s birthday is traditionally observed on April 23, which is also the date on which he died, in 1616.

To celebrate his life, we’ve asked a few NRO contributors to pick their favorite play by Shakespeare and explain why they love it.

– And John J. Miller talks with Maria Tatar, author of Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood, in the latest episode of Between the Covers.