William Conescu confronts his ghosts in second novel

November 5, 2013
By Chris Saunders

William Consescu is a North Carolina-based author who was raised in New Orleans. After graduating from UNC and working for many years, he received his master’s degree from NC State’s creative writing program in 2004. He is just released his second novel, Kara Was Here. It works as a ghost story and a mystery as it follows the story of a life-of-the-party, larger-than-life actress who moves from New York from North Carolina and doesn’t make it.

Conescu_WilliamConescu will appear at The Regulator Bookshop in Durham on Tuesday, Nov. 12, and at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh on Thursday, Nov. 14. We caught up with him to ask him about his first ghost tale and his approaches toward writing.

Does the fact that  you went to UNC and NC State feed into your being a tortured artist? I also worked at Duke for many years. I haven’t been big into the rivalry at all, but it’s worth a chuckle. I went to UNC. I graduated in ’95. There was a good pause before I went to NC State.

Do you consider yourself a Southern writer? I don’t know that I would call myself a “Southern” writer. Although, I’m certainly influenced by my Southern experience and family. Kara is set in North Carolina. That was fun to bring into my writing. That was the first time I put North Carolina in my fiction.

Who do you admire as writers? Classic writers. Edith Wharton. [Vladimir] Nabokov. Their subtle characterizations. Both of them building tension. The cookiness.

Kara Was HereYour first novel,  Being Written, was about a character’s struggle to be recognized by his author in a book. Kara Was Here is a more straightforward tale.What was different for you the second time around in writing the novel? The first book was metafiction. I figured I wouldn’t be writing a series of metafiction books. Kara Was Here has its own weirdness to it. Both books have this very significant characters’ absence. Kara is of course dead. But she’s one of the biggest characters. This is a more straightforward narrative.

What’s the writing process like for you? I’m not an everyday writer. I’m a sort of burst writer. I go in phases where I go and it’s consuming me. I start with the first chapter. I start with the scope of the story. There are characters you hope are engaging. There are enough questions to sustain the book. At some point I create an outline.

Where do you do most of your writing? Mostly at a desktop. I don’t really do as well on a laptop. I don’t write by hand any more. This is the first book where in the final pages I did some of the final editing with an iPad.

Was this your first foray into writing a ghost story? It was. I was thinking about how there’s a fine line between the spirit and the memory. We all see people we love in some way. You remember somebody you love that you lost. And you can evoke them. I thought it worked well to focus on three characters that were such at a point of change in their own lives, and Kara is the one person who can understand them.

Is there a lesson from your time at NC State that you return to when you write? My main teachers were Wilton [Barnhardt], John Kessel and Angela Davis-Gardner. They all influenced me in different ways. Wilton would always talk to me about the rules of the universe you create. It’s got an author and character. You don’t want to violate the rules, but you can surprise your reader.

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