Low Town by Daniel Polansky

By Jeff Ayers

Daniel Polansky’s first novel is a genre blending mix of the best crime fiction and fantasy. Daniel took some time to answer questions about LOW TOWN for the Big Thrill.

Talk about developing the writing bug.

I’ve always been a pretty compulsive reader, down to my early childhood, so I guess it just was an outgrowth of that. Put enough other people’s words in your head and you start spitting out your own. I was never really one of those people who dreamed of being a writer, but on the other hand I was always writing. A few years out from college I started putting more serious effort into it, trying to place articles and short essays at various small internet publications. All non-fiction though, at that point.

What sparked the idea for LOW TOWN?

There was never a ‘Eureka moment,’ to be honest—things just sort of gradually came together. I had the wacky idea to go ahead and try to write a novel, which probably wasn’t a great idea, since I’d never really done any fiction writing before, but there we are. I decided to try my hand at in genre fiction, something more along the lines of a straight high fantasy—but I don’t really like straight high fantasy, so pretty quickly the book started to take on some elements of crime fiction that spoke to me. It wasn’t a plan exactly—it just sort of revealed itself as I went along.

Discuss your path to publication.

I suppose it was less torturous than some peoples’, though it felt pretty damn torturous at the time. I got together a draft that I thought was solid, and then sent it out to anyone who could quasi-legitimately call themselves an agent and did not specifically put, as part of their bio, “will read no submissions from Daniel A. Polansky.” Forty-odd rejections later, a fine gentleman by the name of Chris Kepner went ahead and doubled-down on me. We made some moderate edits and kicked it out into the greater world of publishing. Happily, finding an editor went easier than finding an agent. A handful of houses were interested, we had a brief bidding process, and I (very happily) ended up at Doubleday.

After that things sort of seemed to snowball. There was interest over in the UK, and after we sold to Hodder people seemed to take note over on the continent, and from there further abroad.

Which came first: The thriller elements or the fantasy elements?

I guess the first thing to come was the character’s voice. I just felt like I had a handle on that from the beginning. Actually after I completed a draft I realized I hadn’t done enough to introduce the speculative elements into the book, and went back and reworked it to make the world seem a little more fully formed.

Is genre blending a good thing?  Why or why not?

I like to think it worked out ok for me, but I’m not sure I can draw a general maxim from my particulars. I think originality is something to be prized, and sometimes it can come from remixing aspects of different genres. Of course, remixing itself can lead to some really dull work, especially if you’re just mixing surface elements without a deeper appreciation for the underlying concepts at work.

What’s next?

At the moment I’m lying low, doing some work to bring a strong draft of the Low Town sequel to the table for my various editors to critique. It doesn’t have a name yet, but it will hopefully be coming around in a year or so.

To learn about Daniel Polansky, please visit his website.

Jeff Ayers

Jeff Ayers is the author of Voyages Of Imagination: The Star Trek Fiction Companion (Pocket Books-November 2006). He regulary reviews for the Associated Press, Library Journal, and Booklist and interviews authors for LJ, Writer Magazine, and Author Magazine.

Visit Jeff at: www.voyagesofimagination.com.

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