Forever Is the Worst Long Time: An Interview with Camille Pagán

02/07/2017 11:33 am ET

In Forever Is the Worst Long Time, Camille Pagan explores what could be called at best an unconventional love affair that demonstrates so perfectly that love comes in many different ways and takes many different paths. I loved how the book defied expectations, keeping the surprise in its twists and turns.

You so expertly keep reader’s guessing that I am curious about your own process of writing this book; did you know how it would end from the beginning? If so, how were you able to be so measured in your foreshadowing?

Thank you! I always know how my novels will end when I begin writing; sometimes I even write the last scene or two shortly after starting a new draft. The ending guides every decision I make up as I’m writing.

That said, I have a wonderful editing team (a developmental editor as well as a “primary” editor) and they’re hugely instrumental in keeping me from being heavy-handed—or not obvious enough. Of course, every story requires a lot of editing. For example, with Forever, I was three drafts in when I realized James’ friendship with Rob was just as important—if not more so—as his relationship with Lou.

Which character did you have the most fun writing? Who gave you the biggest heartache?

I absolutely loved Kathryn, who is James’ girlfriend early in the book—to the point that I could have written a whole novel just about her. I also loved Jame’s father, Javier, who was pithy and wise in his own way, and trying to do the best with the hand life dealt him.

My heartache was reserved for James, of course, who let perfectionism stand in the way of happiness. It was really satisfying to allow him to finally open up his heart and adjust his expectations in order to find fulfillment.

What do you hope your books say about love and its powers at the most trying times in our lives—this isn’t the first time you have tackled the way love and death intersect?

Although I didn’t realize this when I began writing fiction—I was well into my third novel (Forever) when I finally saw a true pattern—all of my work centers on the intersection of love and loss. When you love someone, loss is the inevitable risk and almost always the natural consequence: relationships between two people either end, or they continue until one of the two of you die. And yet they’re so incredibly rewarding that we plow forward knowing our hearts may be broken at any time. Embracing that risk, I believe, is the key to living without regret, which is what my books explore.

What are you working on next?

I just finished a draft of a novel called Woman Last Seen During Her Thirties. It’s a sharp, funny take on tragedy that’s in the same vein as my second novel, Life and Other Near-Death Experiences. Lake Union is publishing it in February 2018.

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