Musician Nic Brown writes about a disparate cast caught in Hurricane Hugo in his first book, Floodmarkers.
Would you consider Floodmarkers to be a novel or a collection?
It's both, I guess. I once heard Denis Johnson say about Jesus' Son, and I'm paraphrasing here, that he loved how Jesus' Son was like a CD, because it was small and you could open it up anywhere, and each story was like listening to a song. I thought about that a lot while I was writing. Each chapter was written to stand on its own, but as a whole, the book creates a story arc because of the storm: it's a collection of stories about individuals, and it's a novel about a community.
How did you envision the interplay between your characters and the hurricane?
When Hurricane Hugo hit North Carolina in 1989, I was 12 years old and school was canceled because the storm was forecast to hit Greensboro, where I lived. I remember nothing but excitement. When the storm moved further south and west, however, it left [us] with horrible rain and deflated hopes. Of course, in reality, Hurricane Hugo was a disaster. We should have been glad it missed us. But that's completely separate from the desire of someone in a small town to have an act of God change everything. The storm was a great dramatic device for me to use to make things happen—to change things in these people's lives just enough to allow something special to occur.
You spent years as a professional musician. Was music a big influence on your writing?
At the time I was writing, I had no experience structuring a long narrative, but I did have a lot of experience sequencing an album. An album usually has around 12 songs on it, so I thought, “If I can just get 12 stories I'm happy with, it'll be a book.”
Floodmarkers uses animals—dogs in particular—and kids very poignantly. Was that a conscious decision? The way we treat something vulnerable is a big character test.
You're the second person in a week to mention my use of dogs and children. This was not a conscious decision. I'm not sure what that means about me. Perhaps I need to get a dog?
You might need to get a dog—you don't need to get a child, though.
My daughter, Frances, is seven and a half months old. She is rad. I sold my book on the day she was born. Nat, my agent, called while my wife was in labor. It was crazy. It was the only time I could imagine being more excited about something other than selling my book. I was like, “Great, can we talk about this on Friday?”