In Thursday’s episode, Brandon and I talk about figuring out when a project is done (or you’re done with it), platonic love, swinging (not that kind of swinging). And, you guessed it: Jesus.
RP: In Battle Rattle, there are a lot of loose ends. You mentioned this was part of a larger work, so that makes sense, but regardless, you still have to decide how many loose ends you can get away with while still having a work that feels “complete.” So, how did you know when you were done with the novella part, or how did you decide which parts to take from the larger work as a thing that could stand on its own?
BDJ: How many people have asked you, “When did you know you were done with this poem?”
RP: A handful.
BDJ: The answer I’ve heard sometimes is, “I was done. I was just ready to write a new one.” Is that ever true, or is it always just like, “Jesus says this one’s done”?
RP: Jesus ultimately decides. Actually, I think it’s different on a poem level than it is on a manuscript level. When I look at my chapbook versus the full-length draft that I have, I know what part can stand on its own and what part I could never put together as a chapbook because, without the other parts, it just wouldn’t make sense. You can have loose ends—and there are plenty in Battle Rattle, which I think is a huge strength, given the themes in the novella and the fact that that’s real life. That’s how life happens. You don’t get the answers, you don’t get the meaning, and that’s just life, and you just have to deal with that. But it’s interesting, then, to me—because this is part of a larger work—to know how you decided what part was the part that could stand on its own.
BDJ: There are multiple things that influenced the decision. There was another chapter that I had in there that I removed, partly because it interrupted the narrative momentum.
Rake kills himself very early on. He broke his back, and things aren’t going very good. I mentioned PTSD in there, early in the first chapter, but Vez isn’t really talking about PTSD. He doesn’t think that PTSD is what killed Rake. That’s why he says, “It’s easy to convince yourself that something is real when someone you know might’ve died because of that something you didn’t believe in.”
What he’s talking about is love, and he’s not talking about the love between lovers. He’s talking about the love between two people who trust one another without the potential for that other stuff. I don’t know how your and Jesus’ relationship works, but clearly as mathematics has shown, Tina and I have been intimate at least once, which adds completely different stuff to a relationship that is wonderful in its own way that isn’t there for your best friend, necessarily.
RP: Platonic love.
BDJ: Yes, right, which is like every time Shannon smiles or giggles—that stuff. Which I think is amazing, and I’m so happy that I’m getting to experience this. With a person that you love platonically and trust completely—trust is a huge part—if that trust is destroyed, maybe you believe that your entire life was a lie. And if the person you’ve been friends with and have been trying to help get over “it”—whatever “it” may be—and try to live their life is the person who betrays you, maybe you think the only option is to off yourself, because how could you ever trust someone again?
Are your feet hot, Shannon? You want to go on the swing? We’re outside now. Raegen, are your feet hot too?
RP: They are, but I’m OK. I’m at an age now, thankfully, where I can handle this problem on my own. Last year, that would not have been the case, but this year has been a defining year for me.
BDJ: I’m putting this girl in a swing. She likes swinging.
Anyway, in order to sum it up in a way that answers your question, that’s how I knew that the novella was done. That’s what that novella is: It’s the story of Vez and Rake’s relationship, with Vez trying to tell it and understand what it is that he’s afraid of. He was afraid that he was going to war, but he was also afraid that he was destroying way more than what he was going to destroy when that Spectre was called in to destroy that village.