Michael Zapata’s ambitious debut novel, The Lost Book of Adana Moreau (Hanover Square Press/HarperCollins) meanders back and forth in time, across continents, languages, and dimensions, as one of the main characters, Saul Drower, searches for the owner of a mysterious novel manuscript that his recently deceased grandfather had promised to deliver. Clues to the mystery reveal themselves via stories within stories, a vague introduction to theoretical physics, meditations on the climate crisis, and delicious references to science fiction classics. As all the stories within stories knit themselves together, Saul tracks Maxwell Moreau, the son of the manuscript’s author, to post-Katrina New Orleans where they confront the meaning of their journeys and their connections to those who came before them.
Mike is a founding editor of MAKE Literary Magazine and the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Award for Fiction, the City of Chicago DCASE Individual Artist Program award and a Pushcart nomination. As an educator, he taught literature and writing in high schools servicing dropout students. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa and has lived in New Orleans, Italy, and Ecuador. He currently lives in Chicago with his family. His book has already been praised in The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Kirkus Reviews, and other publications.
I was lucky enough to talk to Mike the morning his book launched. He was generous with his insights and his time, which was a real gift because I had a lot of questions about this enchanting novel.
Julie Carrick Dalton: Mike, welcome to The Writer Unboxed. As you know, I’m a huge fan of your book, in part because you take such big risks with structure. You incorporate many complex elements, yet, somehow weave them together beautifully into an un-put-downable story. What inspired you to take on such an ambitious structure in a first novel?
Michael Zapata: The structure definitely emerged sentence by sentence. That said, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the Latin American literary tradition. The structures found in Latin American literature can be so extraordinary, and I think they allow for some of these divergent elements of stories within stories. There’s a long tradition of that. I put a challenge to myself to combine that with the North American structure that is more plot-heavy, concerned with getting from point A to point B. Overall, I wanted to combine a Latin American structure with a North American structure and see what would happen.
JCD: It occurs to me that a reader could tease The Lost Book of Adana Moreau apart, restructure it, and present it as a book of fables. The story of the Dominicana and the pirate, the story of the pony and the mine, the story of the Lost City, and so many others embedded within your larger narrative. I’m in awe of how you pulled this off. Did you take inspiration from other authors who employ stories within stories? [Read more…]