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A conversation between Anna Quindlen and Diane Keaton

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Keaton_Then AgainAnna Quindlen: The first thing I have to ask you about is the structure of the book, because it’s so much more like the way we think about things, as opposed to the linear way in which books like this are usually constructed. I kept wondering whether you pictured it that way from the beginning or if that’s what developed as you were writing.

Diane Keaton: It kind of goes back to the idea of collage. I had mountains of correspondence, my mother’s endless journals, my father’s few letters, scrapbooks, photo albums, and my own half-baked journals. I didn’t really have an approach. I just randomly started reading one of Mother’s journals. After I finished it, I found one of my own I had written the same year. So I read that too. Then I started editing Mom down, then me, and after that I began to write in response to both of us. I began to compare and contrast our lives. It helped. The book became a kind of editorial process
I felt comfortable with. Of course, the result was a mess, but I sent it to my editor, David Ebershoff, anyway. He would encourage me and always say, “Diane, remember, writing is rewriting.” I took his advice. Rewriting was like memorizing a script; I just kept going over it, and over it and over it again. It was like the old Repetition Game I learned when I was studying acting with Sandy Meisner—you keep repeating until something new comes. Part of the Repetition Game requires spontaneous response to your partner’s behavior. It was easy to respond to my mother. She was the most important person in my life.

AQ: Were you astonished when you realized how much writing your mother had done on her own without any thought of publication or pay?

DK: I think about it all the time. I think, “What would it be like if I had read the journals before she was gone, before I started to write Then Again?” I miss her. Now that I know so much more about her intimate experiences and longings, it breaks my heart. (more…)

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