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Steer Your Own Course: Author Boston Teran on Blending Genres Across 11 Novels

Author Boston Teran discusses his new novel, A Child Went Forth, his choice to use a pseudonym, upcoming film adaptations of his work, and the unique considerations of blending genres including historical fiction, mystery, crime and more.
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Boston Teran is the award-winning author of eleven novels, including God Is a Bullet and The Ceeed of Violence, both of which are slated to be adapted into films.

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Actually, that's not entirely true. Boston Teran is a pseudonym, a purposeful decision that helps the author maintain the integrity of his creative process and the intention of his words in an age when social media has made privacy a challenge.

Boston's novels have been widely praised in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and abroad.

His latest novel, A Child Went Forth, released May 19, tells the story of a young con artist who finds himself tasked with carrying a secret stash of money from Brooklyn to Missouri to give it to the abolitionist leaders there in 1851. Boston typically only participates in one interview per book release, so we were thrilled at the opportunity to ask him about the new novel, his choice to use a pseudonym, and the unique considerations of blending genres including historical fiction, mystery, crime and more.

Your upcoming novel, A Child Went Forth, gets its name from a verse in Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass—and Whitman appears in the novel. Aside from its relevance to the story’s coming-of-age theme, why did you choose this source for the title?

Well, America was still in its historical childhood, and the title seemed fitting. But more than that, I felt that the reader of a book, any book, is like a child going forth. Whether a book, a play, a film, music, art, the person taking it in for the first time has the same excited innocence of the child going forth.

Including historical figures and events in fiction can be challenging even for seasoned writers, especially given the amount of research required to do so effectively. What is your research process like prior to writing a novel with historic elements, and what advice would you give to writers looking to do the same?

The look and feel of history is different than history. Let history come to the story as you need it, let history be in the service of the story. Julius Caesar by Shakespeare. There is just enough fact to hang the fiction on, without hanging the fiction.

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This will be your 11th novel, correct? What have you learned over the course of publishing these novels that you didn’t know when you set out to publish the first?

How to steer one’s own course while engaging in a form of literary freedom of choice. Always reserving the right to crash and burn on your terms. And understanding full well the wondrous fact that 99.9999% of a writer’s career takes place after they are swept from this world.

Two of your novels are slated to be adapted into films. What has that process been like so far?

It’s like getting drunk and trying to climb Mount Everest wearing swimming trunks and snowshoes while you carry a three-hundred-pound schizophrenic on your back who means to do you harm… other than that, the process is a cinch.

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Julia mentioned that you believe that in the age of social media and the demise of privacy, literature is suffering a loss of integrity, affecting the writer's creative process, the experience of reading, and the very heart of the word itself. Can you explain your rationale for this, and what you think the impact will be in the future?

Did I say all that? I must have been on medication at the time.

Writers are often judged, evaluated, embraced and sometimes even diminished or dismissed because of their sex, their race, their religion, their background, their private histories and public personas, their sexuality, their schooling, their politics, their failings and a refrigerator full of other possibilities that I’ve left out or forgotten. And they all mean nothing.

They do not enlarge the scope of a book, they do not reward its bearing or expand its value. They are the corral that encloses it with detail. They become a living form of social entrapment.

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Your work blends historical fiction, mystery, crime and more. What draws you to write in these genres, and what advice would you offer to other writers looking to blend genres in their work?

I think we might approach this question from a different perspective.

Let me use Huckleberry Finn, as an example. It’s historical fiction in that it looked back upon slavery, that had been outlawed for over twenty years. It was in that respect a reflection upon a time. It certainly had elements of a mystery. After all Huck does fake his own death, he overhears two thieves talking about the murder of third, and he discovers an unrecognizable corpse in a floating house. All plot points that were resolved in the course of the novel. It certainly has elements of a crime novel. He is kidnapped by his own father. It also has aspects of a thriller or action/adventure. He helps his friend, a runaway slave, escape on a dangerous river journey to freedom.

Huckleberry Finn is one example of a book that encompasses and embraces a number of what people define as ‘genres’ to become what we now regard simply as—fiction.

You make no secret of the fact that Boston Teran is a pseudonym. Why do you write under a pseudonym, and what is its significance? Why do you like to keep a relatively low profile as an author?

Low profile...? Boston Teran has no profile. And that doesn’t just happen. We had to work damn hard to achieve it. And it’s meant facing a lot of negativity along the way and promises of failure.

As for the rest, the answer to Question #5 highlights it.

What do you read for inspiration, and which authors would you say influence your work the most?

I don’t know where inspiration comes from. I never did, I presume I never will.

Do you have plans to write more after A Child Went Forth is released? If so, do you know what you’ll work on next?

When I write a book I approach it as if it were the last. So I’m working with finality on my shoulder.

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