Did you really write the entire novel on the subway?
I wrote the bulk of the first draft on the subway, yes. By the time I began revising I was pretty sick of riding the trains, and my back hurt, so I stopped.
And what was the total number of hours you spent writing on the train?
That’s a good question. I can say it was probably five days a week for six months, maybe. There was time in there when I wasn’t in New York City and I wasn’t working on the book. It took about a year for a solid first draft. The subway’s really not that bad—it’s a good place to get work done, as long as something isn’t happening in the train car and you have a halfway decent playlist.
What was on your playlist?
I can’t write to music that has vocals, and sometimes, if the beat is too insistent and irregular I can’t write to that, either. I listen to a lot of classical music, like J. S. Bach. I listen to a decent amount of jazz, particularly jazz of the early sixties, from Charlie Parker to Eric Dolphy. Then there’s the more contemporary stuff. I found some good indie rock bands to listen to, like Animal Collective. And there’s a record called “Brokeback Morning Light,” by the Graham Colton Band. I liked writing to Tortoise and The Boredoms. They have a record called “VisionCreation Newsun.” It’s all one song with drums, flangy guitars, and chanting; it makes you feel like you’re onto something.