One of the pleasures of having writer friends is that we are always in and out of one another's working lives. We get to see the process. Masha Hamilton is a great writer and a great friend, and I read (and was knocked out by) an early draft of her novel, 31 Hours. The published version is even better (and racking up the raves) and I'm thrilled Masha agreed to answer questions on my blog. Thank you, Masha!
I had read an earlier version of this novel and what impressed me so much was the difference between the final version—which was leaner, more focused, and more powerful—and the first version, which I had also loved. Characters were streamlined, events changed shape and position. Can you talk about the process, how you got from A to B?
Although 31 Hours concerns itself with a homegrown American terrorist, to me, the book is also really about the relationships we have with other, the ways we miscommunicate, or are seen and not see, and about the moments "that change us forever." Jonas says goodbye to the man he had been, Carol says of her son, "We change, but they change more," and a homeless man, Sonny (the kind of person most people choose not to see at all), has premonitions of what is about to happen. What I found most interesting is none of these lives intersected. Jonas and Vic, his girlfriend, are very much on each other's minds, but while they share scenes in the past, there are no scenes of them in the present together. Jonas and his mom never have a conversation or meeting in the present, either, and Sonny never gets to tell anyone who could stop it what he fears is going to happen—and that makes it all the more terrifying. I'm curious what you think might have happened if Vic or Carol had been able to reach Jonas. Would it have changed anything?