The Rosecrans Baldwin Interview

Patton Oswalt asked us AV Clubbers about time travel and here's my answer.

I've known today's interviewee online for a long time, primarily when he edited my work over at The Morning News, a fine website if there ever was one. He has recently published his first novel, You Lost Me There, which has received wonderful reviews from little-known press outlets like the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and NPR. The novel centers on Dr. Victor Aaron, an Alzheimer's researcher who is mourning his dead wife by combing through her notes on their marriage which just happen to differ from his accounts of the relationship. You can watch the trailer for the book here (which my husband happened to edit).

Tell us about the cover of your book: was it what you had envisioned?
Actually, I didn't envision much. I didn't know what to picture. But I was very pleasantly surprised. My editor, Sean McDonald, had done some fantastic covers before, so I felt like I was in good hands.

He said he wanted antlers to be a motif somehow, but an abstract one. The way it worked out, to me the antlers on the cover resemble axons, which are like tails on neurons (which comes up a few times in the book). In fact, a neuroscientist asked me last week about this at a reading, because she thought they *were* axons. She didn't see the antlers for the axons.

I explained that yes, Riverhead had done this deliberately to target the neuroscientist/contemporary-fiction reader market.

Which part of the book did you write first?
The scene when Victor's in his car in the parking lot, watching Regina escort her boss to her car.

The press on your book has been astounding: at what point along the way did your publicist or editor let you know they had a feeling it would get a big push?
There was a moment in June when my publicist said he didn't know if he'd worked on a book before that had gotten so much pre-pub, round-up press. I think it's been a big surprise to everyone.

Are you keeping track of sales numbers or Amazon ranking? If so how do you not let it get you crazy?
Not really. I haven't heard any sales numbers yet, and I don't pay attention to the Amazon ranking. I check it occasionally, but it doesn't mean much. I think I'm handily being outsold by a dozen different kitten calendars.

A main theme of your novel is the way in which two people can view their relationship so differently. How much did you consult your wife in terms of general feedback on the book or this particular subject?
Lots. She's also a writer and she reads and edits almost all of my drafts. I'm very lucky to have a very perceptive, tough editor for a spouse.

You did a lot of research on Alzheimer's for the book: how much did you also do on the mourning process?
None actually. I think mourning may be similar in some ways for many people, but it's a very individual set of experiences, reactions. It causes strange desires to pop up, it turns trivial objects into treasures, and it doesn't stop.

Did you envision The Hook-Up to be the kind of romantic comedy you would enjoy (if there is such a thing? If so, what are some rom-coms you did like?)
Oh yeah. Absolutely. I wrote pages and pages about The Hook-Up in my notes. Storylines, jokes. I'm a huge romantic comedy fan. I roll over for "His Girl Friday." "Charade." "Four Weddings and a Funeral." Anything Hugh Grant. I'm waiting for The Thin Man to be remade with Hugh Grant as Nick.

What did you learn about the process of writing You Lost Me There that you would use to do differently with your next novel?

I've been writing my next novel for the last two years and I don't think I learned anything. I'm not being glib about this, it's really like I've gone all the way back to the beginning again. I've gotten better at certain things, but that only shows me how much remains to be figured out. I find it incredibly difficult. I find it supremely fucking difficult.

What's your favorite Bruce Willis movie?
The Fifth Element. Die Hard II. Hudson Hawk.

The Morning News has been around--and good--for forever (in Internet time). Are you ever tempted to give it up or pass it on to someone else in favor of other tasks? What keeps you motivated to keep it going?
My friendship with my co-founder Andrew Womack and my relationships with everyone else who works on TMN. It's a big family. Also, at TMN I'm editing, not writing, and I really enjoy working with writers. We recently began publishing new poetry and it's a blast, reaching out to poets I admire and soliciting work.

What are some blogs/sites you read every day? That's about it. Except for my work finding headlines for TMN (which has me looking at a ton of RSS feeds in the morning), I don't really spend time on the web.

I've always felt embarrassed by the fact that I once called you "Rosencrans" in an email. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, here's a name question: do you know what your parents would have named you if you were a girl?
Ha! Well, my mom wanted to call me Cooper, I think. I don't know if that was boy- or girl-specific. But my dad was adamant about passing along the name.

Where are you currently with the nonfiction book you've been working on?
Draft version 4.06.a.1. I just checked: word number 26,225. Yeah, it's awful. I've got to submit a draft soon. My brain is smoking. My wife and I were talking yesterday about where I could find a cheap motel nearby to go disappear and crank it out.

How the researching process for that book different than with You Lost Me There?
Well, there's a lot more about tanning. Natural tanning, indoor tanning, tanning by ointment application. The book is a humorous travelogue about what it's like to live and work in Paris in the 21st century. It's called PARIS I LOVE YOU, BUT YOU'RE BRINGING ME DOWN. Parisians tan like crazy.

What are you reading now?
FREEDOM by Jonathan Franzen and ANNALS OF THE FORMER WORLD by John McPhee and COP KILLER by Sjöwall and Wahlöö. A few months ago my friend Jeremy got me a terrific book that Graham Greene and his brother edited, THE SPY'S BEDSIDE BOOK, and I dip into that at night, or go through the Sherlock Holmes canon.

What's Sean Connery like?

Man, he's a really sweet guy. Witty, grizzled. Handsome--very, very handsome. Unfortunately, old. When I met him, he'd just had an accident playing golf.

How does it feel to be the 263rd person interviewed for

Fizzy like a champagne shampoo.