Guest Post from Author Kevin Haworth: Fiction vs. Non-Fiction
The post below was written by author Kevin Haworth as part of his Famous Drownings in Literary History – Book Blog Tour. Learn more about Famous Drownings in Literary History at the publisher website.
For a long time, I saw myself as a fiction writer. But for me, fiction was always as much about the “real world” as it was about my own imagination. For a future fiction writer, I was a very fact-oriented child; my most-read books were Zander Hollander’s Complete Handbook of Baseball series, a team-by-team listing of statistics, trivia, and odd personal info for every single major leaguer. I read my share of fiction, too—everything from comic books to Jack London—but my shelves of sports encyclopedias, WWII histories, and pocket biographies always felt just as important in sparking my imagination.
So it’s no surprise that writing my first novel involved a lot of reckoning with the facts. The Discontinuity of Small Things is based on the German occupation of Denmark that began in 1940. I spent eight years writing that book, not just developing the characters, but also immersing myself in the facts of that world—everything from European fashions of the 1930s to the market price for fish along the north Zealand coast.
When I began writing the essays that would become Famous Drownings in Literary History, the process wasn’t all that different. This time, the overall narrative wasn’t the events of the summer of 1943 in Copenhagen but rather my own life, or pieces of it, anyway—life on kibbutz in Northern Israel when I was twenty-one, my son’s circumcision just over ten years later, my daughter’s near drowning in a hotel pool in Columbus a few years after that. But those essays are back-stopped, to use a baseball term, by other stories, discovered through an intensive research process, and all of them just as real: the deaths of hundreds of West Virginia miners in an industrial accident, the forced evacuation of Israeli settlers from the Sinai desert, a bus explosion in Bulgaria. For me, fiction and non-fiction share an impulse and a process: to be comprehensive, encyclopedic. I’m the Zander Hollander of my own mind.
About Kevin Haworth
Kevin Haworth’s first novel, The Discontinuity of Small Things, was awarded the Samuel Goldberg Prize for best Jewish fiction by a writer under 40. It was also recognized as runner-up for the 2006 Dayton Literary Peace Prize. His collection of non-fiction essays, Famous Drownings in Literary History, was released by CCLaP in 2012, and won Kevin a pre-publication grant from the Ohio Arts Council. A two-time resident of the Vermont Studio Center, he is also a winner of the David Dornstein Prize for Young Jewish Writers and the Permafrost Fiction Prize. His fiction and nonfiction appear in Sentence, ACM, Poetica, Permafrost, and others. He lives in Athens, Ohio with his wife, Rabbi Danielle Leshaw, and their two children, Zev and Ruthie. He teaches writing and literature at Ohio University.