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Science-fiction author describes 'oddly personal' journey

In a reading of his newest novel, "Swallowing a Donkey's Eye," science-fiction author Paul Tremblay described the process of writing the book as "an oddly personal journey, although not biographical in any way." Tremblay addressed a small crowd at the Brown Bookstore Wednesday evening.

Tremblay, who has been nominated for two Bram Stoker Awards, has also authored two mystery novels, "The Little Sleep" and "No Sleep Till Wonderland." But "Swallowing a Donkey's Eye," a dystopian political satire, is a different work altogether. Its narrator is trapped at a mega-conglomerate farm simply called "Farm." Farm is the sole food provider for the technocratic "City" for the next six contractual years. When he finds out that his mother, whom he left behind, is homeless and is set to be deported to the "Pier," he decides to take action. "Swallowing a Donkey's Eye" follows the narrator through this serious but hilarious journey. 

The reading, punctuated by Tremblay's dry humor, featured various parts of the novel in which the different settings - the Farm, City and Pier - were brought to light. 

"I hope to have delivered exaggerated, over-the-top satire, but also humorous nonetheless," he said. 

One of the passages he read explained the rules and regulations of the Farm in great detail, showcasing his intricate and sometimes overwhelming use of language. 

"If we don't smile, if we don't follow the tour Protocol to the capital P, if we break any rules, if we're late for any shifts, if we swear at supervisors, if we swear at the animals, if we're caught having sex on the job with co-worker or animal, if we're caught stealing or eating or sabotaging the animals, we're contractually and severely punished," Tremblay read. 

Compared to his previous novels, Tremblay described the process of writing "Swallowing a Donkey's Eye" as "free-wheeling." 

"I didn't have a set time agenda, and I could add and change parts as I went along," he said. "For my other two novels, I had to write a 10-page synopsis beforehand to get my story straight. The fun part of writing this novel was letting go and trusting my subconscious."

Though his novels primarily deal with fantastic settings, Tremblay said he seeks to write stories with characters readers can feel empathy for.

"It's about learning about other people and wanting to understand and empathize for them," he said.

Tremblay said he hopes this freeing process continues in his next novel, which will also be a satire, focused on the publishing industry and education.


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