George McCormick messes around with Inland Empire sentences and changing narratives–complete with a time stamp:
The title for the book came late; after the last page had been written or sure. I’m going to embarrass myself and disclose the fact that the working title had been, for about a year, The Blue Grackle. It’s a bad title for everyone except me, but I needed to know that. I was worried that because Inland Empire (which is a real place in Southern California where I am from) had also been the name of a David Lynch film, I couldn’t use it. It took reading Ed Skoog’s fantastic poem “Inland Empire” that I realized it was fair game. Thanks, Ed!
While I’ve tinkered with different drafts, mostly revising sentence-level things, I basically sent QFP what in my mind was a realized book. I believed in it. It is a small book, but I believe in it now, and I believed in it when I sent it. Which is part of the reason I sent it to QFP in the first place: I love their work and I love the chances they take. Period. I wanted to be a part of that.
The stories were written over a five-year period. From there I consolidated them into four “big” stories. It should be understood that when I began writing the book I hadn’t any notion that I was writing something that would actually be made into a book. More than anything I was messing around with sentences, with passages. Then I started to realize how much I needed the act of writing in my life. I had just moved to a very strange city in Oklahoma, and I was freaking out, to put it bluntly, but I thought, okay, if you can make a piece of art out of this place, then you’ve really done something. Now I know that people do this all the time with the less-than-ideal places they live, but for me it was a matter of survival—and as soon as I saw it in those terms I knew I had something. Now I won’t live anywhere but shitty places (kidding).
Two of the sections have been published: “The Train Singer’s Song” in This Land; “Inland Empire” in Arcadia. I could not be happier with the working relationship I’ve had with the editors of these fine publications. Oklahoma is a special place, a funky place, when it comes to the arts. There’s almost not pretension, no turf battles, and in turn the community is amazingly strong.
I didn’t arrange the stories until the end, but by then the structure of the book had revealed itself and it was relatively simple. Here’s the thing with Inland Empire: I wrote and rewrote and rewrote each page until I felt comfortable going to the subsequent page. It was that simple: finish one page, go to the next. I thought in terms of thirty lines per page. My faith was that a structure, over time, would emerge. Thank God—and I’m not kidding, I pray all the time before I write—one did.
I sent the book to the Queen’s Ferry Press because that’s who I wanted to publish it. I had an agent who didn’t want me to do this, I ignored that agent, and now I am happy. I do want to say one last thing about the book that I think is important: I finished the book at four in the afternoon on the 24th of November, 2013. When I finished the book I was so happy, so proud, that I called a friend of mine and read him the closing passage. He was stoked, and I was on cloud nine. I thought I will always remember November 24, 2013 as the day I finished my book. Then my daughter was born that night at 11:03, and as they say, the narrative changed.