Interviewed by Rachel Wild

Read John Saul’s fiction piece, Accidents and Emergencies

Rachel: What inspired you to write this piece?

John: A long-standing disaffection with religion and its dogmas. Plus one or two personal experiences, such as the trip in a small motor boat on a big river, now highly fictionalised.

Can you tell me more about the structure you used? How did you know it was right for this piece?

The question to me is often how to present a fiction with several strands or angles, given that the days of linear narratives are almost over—very few writers nowadays can successfully produce a straight narrative that works. There are various ways to present fiction in a non-linear way—here through simple paragraphing (block paragraphs like sections), and numbering the sections. This helps myself as author both to present and to play with the different elements. And it helps a reader to follow what might seem to be a meandering. (It gives the text the appearance of order, which it may in fact not have.) Walter Abish used this paragraphing technique exceptionally well. As for knowing it was right, I may have tried different ways of organising the text, I can’t properly recall. But how do I know it was right?—I just know.

Every writer has obsessions they return to over the years. What are yours? Does this piece reflect them in some way?

I wouldn’t go as far as to say all writers have obsessions. I have interests that recur, if you like: love relationships, language, art, places. This piece is to a large extent about a relationship. It suggests, I hope, love can be a matter of accidents and emergencies.

Do you have an ideal reader in mind as you write? What are they like?

I don’t think about readers while writing, that would be quite a burden. Writing itself is difficult enough without also having to imagine readers. But if there is an ideal reader he, she or they would be like myself. Smart, funny, inventive, etc.!