We recently published Christina Pan’s brilliant “Dead Writer’s Desk.” Here, we ask her two questions about her story:
1) Is there a significance to the “forty-six pages” found on the writer’s desk — not in the pages themselves, of course, but in the number of them?
When I first started building the writer’s desk, I thought I would start with something quantifiable, so I chose page numbers as an analog version of word count. I think word count is something writers check on as a guarantee of some sort, since it’s one of the only objective measures in a process that is so subjective. As for the number forty-six, I included a specific number just to have a clear quantifiable amount in a way that feels like the writer is trying to stay in total control, and yet at the same time is precariously leaning on the edge of letting loose to new discoveries.
2) That imagery at the end! Oh, it gives me the shivers: “the body floating upwards, the words floating upwards, trails into the air, wisps of cigarette smoke, barely there, nothing really, and the rain falling, and the soft jacket.” Do you think the writer had a sense of what was coming for her? Or is this all just a remarkable coincidence?
I originally started this story in a much more direct manner where the first sentence involves a newspaper headline announcing the death of a well-known crime novelist. Later I adjusted the premise of the story to make the mystery unfold a little more gradually. I have to say that I’ve always been interested in the lives of writers, especially those of mystery writers where it feels like they could always disappear one day, appear dead to the world, then come back in all their glory a couple months later. So, yes, I think the writer in this story followed a certain plan systematically, much like how a detective in a mystery novel would solve a case. What’s left on her desk, then, is all her readers have to go off of.