By Rob Wilstein
New York Times November 20, 2012
Simon & Schuster released a new novel by Herman Wouk, the 97-year-old Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Caine Mutiny,” the publisher said on Monday.
New York Times November 20, 2062
Eclipsing Herman Wouk’s long-held record, 110-year-old Boston author Rob Wilstein finally releases his first novel, his publisher said on Monday.
(Ed. Note: This interview took place at Remington’s in Boston, a landmark institution. A writer’s saloon in the early part of the century, it is now an oxygen bar and cryogenic center.)
A half-century ago, in 2011, Grub Street Boston introduced its now legendary Novel Incubator program, at the time the only full-year intensive study of the novel-writing process. Its overwhelming success spawned a few short-lived imitators, but today Grub Street offers the Incubator in each of its over 200 locations worldwide. Plans for interplanetary offerings are in the works.
Grub Street Boston sent its intrepid reporter to interview 110-year old author Rob Wilstein, referred to here as the Old Man, a student in the inaugural Novel Incubator class of 2012, on the occasion of the publishing of his novel, Big Shot, by Hologram Press, soon to be released in 4-D, viewable in your living room.
R. Wilstein aka Old Man c. 2062
Grub Street: Thank you for speaking with us. Novel Incubator just began its fiftieth year. What advice do you have for incoming students?
Old Man: Well, obviously, take your time. It’s a long process and it’s not a race. Show up. Stay in the room and stretch your legs every fifteen minutes. Also, fiber.
GS: You began your career as a painter. What are the differences between painting and writing?
OM: Writing is less messy. Otherwise, exactly the same.
GS: What is one of the key things you learned as an Incubee?
OM: Keep it simple.
GS: In what ways?
OM: For instance, when I entered the program with my draft, my novel had six parallel narratives spanning five eras, multiple narrators using flashback, future shots, italics, boldface and gibberish, told in the present and past tense simultaneously.
GS: So the instructors helped you narrow that down a bit.
OM: Don’t interrupt, I’m an old man. I wasn’t finished. It was also a graphic comic fantasy thriller YA about Nazi vampires on the planet @#$%&.
GS: I see. And they had you pare some of that. Did they help you find the signature of the novel?
OM: The what?
GS: The signature, the through-line. What did your character want?
OM: Want? To shtup the girl, what else?
GS: And the inciting incident?
OM: Oh, I had plenty of those. But we got it down to two or three. You can never have too many exciting incidents in a novel.
GS: Does your novel have a narrative arc, one that builds from chapter to chapter, with increasing intensity, until you reach the desired climax?
OM: Please, I’m an old man.
GS: And finishing the novel. Did you have any problem with the denouement?
OM: I don’t speak French.
GS: There were nine other writers in your class. Was it helpful to read and comment on their work?
OM: Definitely. You learn so much from others. Flying warriors, Southern drug lords, transsexual adolescents, time-travelling six-year-olds, corrupt lawyers, ambitious gay-blind women, homicidal teenagers, Israeli number-crunchers and dying Amish helped me to realize my Yiddish mensch from Padolsk.
GS: And did you keep in touch with your co-Incubees?
OM: Not after they were all published in the first year. I had no use for them. Dead to me.
GS: Did you find the Incubator instructors helpful? Were you able to build a trusting and collaborative relationship with them?
OM: Oh, absolutely. In fact, I just saw them both at Grub yesterday.
GS: They’re still teaching the Novel Incubator?
OM: Yes, they are. Only now Lisa Borders and Michelle Hoover have morphed into one teacher. It happens.
GS: Now what? Any plans for a second novel?
OM: You’re very optimistic. Actually, after Muse 2062, I am beginning my real life’s work. I can’t reveal it all but I’ve already sold the rights to Spielberg’s great great grandson. It’s a contemporary take on War and Peace, only longer. And a musical.
GS: Thank you for your time, and good luck with your new project. I’m sure you will capture the, um, Zeitgeist.
Rob Wilstein, aka the Old Man, in 2013, lived in Arlington, Massachusetts with his wife, Lorri, and their dog, Rio. In 2062 they still walk Rio every day, though he has slowed a bit at age four hundred twenty in human years.
The Novel Incubator is Grub Street’s year-long intensive course in the novel for writers with a completed novel manuscript, team-taught by Lisa Borders and Michelle Hoover. Deadline for applications is in February. For more information, go to www.grubstreet.org/index.php?id=1285.