Q & A with Nat Segaloff, author of The Town That Said No from BearManor Media.
Q: You’re better known for your non-fiction. What compelled you to write a novel?
A: Dismissing the wisecrack that some of my non-fiction is fiction, when I couldn’t find a way of focusing my ideas in a non-fiction book, I chose the form of a novel.
Q: Just what is your theme?
A: Xenophobia (fear of outsiders) and religious bigotry..
Q: How about a capsule synopsis?
A: Two stories play against each other. One is about a Muslim family that moves into a small American town and the reaction of the residents to their unwanted presence. It is also about a writer who returns to this town after being embedded with a platoon in Afghanistan and discovers that a man he saw commit a war crime is also there, possibly seeking revenge against him or kill the Muslim family.
Q: That sounds like a stock dramatic situation.
A: Not the way I stack the cards. First, the Muslim family didn’t want to move to the town of Hobart, Tennessee—they were sent there by the government when they fled Afghanistan. Second, Hobart is a diverse southern community with no racial strife and famously stood against an invasion by skinheads a few years earlier. But religious differences make the conflict more complicated.
Q: Are you playing with stereotypes?
A: Absolutely. Nobody is who you think they are. Stereotypes vanish once you get to know the people burdened with them.
Q: Who do you hope will read The Town That Said No?
A: Well, it isn’t beach reading, that’s for sure, but it also isn’t a political or social polemic. It’s just a story that I hope is well-told.
Q: Where did you get the idea?
A: Part of it is based on people and a town I know, and the rest is drawn from something called “imagination.”
Q: How did you like writing a novel versus writing non-fiction?
A: It’s both liberating and confining. It’s liberating in that I can invent anything I want to, but confining in that it has to make sense because I can’t lay off inconsistencies on the people I’m quoting.
Q: Is there any chance of having it made into a movie?
A: I thought you’d never ask. The film rights were bought while the book was still in galleys and I am now writing the screenplay.
Q: Who do you want to star in the movie?
A: Gary Cooper and Robert Ryan, neither of whom is returning phone calls. I’m sure that the producers are more realistic.