Q&A: Alumnus Adam Braver’s new novel, ‘The Disappeared,’ tackles terrorism, fear, loss

(Photo used by permission of Braver)
Adam Braver, ’80

Adam Braver, ‘80,  is an author who has written six novels. He is on the faculty of the Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island. His newest book, “The Disappeared”  was published Oct 3.


Q: In short, how would you describe “The Disappeared”?

A: I would describe it as a novel about two people who have been touched by loss through two different terrorist attacks.


Q: What inspired you to write this novel?

A: Certainly the times we live in inspired me to write it,  in terms of how there are a lot of fragile times (because of terrorism).

But I was also interested in the fear, the idea of fear, of people being very fearful and what that does to people in their daily life.

The actual characters and their story lines are also an exploration of the idea of grief. They are two people who are grieving very differently. Both (grievers are lost), somebody who is trying to move forward and somebody who can’t let go.


Q: When did you choose to be a writer? Did anything in academia point you in that direction?

A: I would say I was in my early 20’s when I decided to focus on (writing). I always wrote in some kind of capacity; it was in different forms, but I decided that I wanted to focus on writing fiction.

I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I went back and re-studied writing in school. (I went back to) graduate school to do that. But the desire for me wasn’t to have a job or something; it was just that I loved reading and books so much.

I sort of hit the point where I thought, “Could I do that too?” I probably spent about 10 years (writing) before I published anything. (I was) just studying, practicing,  throwing stuff away and trying again. (I was) honing (my) craft.

Country Day was also very writing-heavy, and very literature-intensive.


Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: I’d say that it is two-fold. One needs to really love the process, really love engaging in the process, love the feeling of accomplishment one gets and being in the world of it. (They should try) not to think about the writing being something that could make them a lot of money or might make them famous. (Mostly) because it’s a very difficult business; it’s one that changes quite a bit and has a lot of ups and downs.

The most important thing is to love what you’re doing. If you were a painter, you would want to really get a lot of joy and satisfaction out of the process of painting, not just the money. That always has to come first. I’ve had many students over the years who want to do it just because they see it as something that will make them a lot of money, (or bring them) joy. You usually don’t get a ton of money either.

If you don’t have the passion, it’s probably the wrong thing for you.


Q: What are your job(s) at the Roger Williams University? Have you taught elsewhere?

A: I have a joint appointment (meaning I work for two different areas of the school): I am an associate professor in the Department of English Literature and Creative Writing, and I am the University Library Program Director in the University Libraries.

I also have taught for 14 years at the New York State Summer Writers Institute – a summer writing workshop program.


Q: What author or authors have influenced you?

A: It’s hard to say because I have people in the past I have taken a lot of inspiration from, (but) now I find some of them (to be) not as important to me anymore.

(My inspirations are) often just who I’m reading (at the moment); I’m always reading to get ideas, structure and language.

Some (authors) like (short-story writer) Raymond Carver were really important to me when I was young. Carver taught me a lot about the economy of writing in terms of having straight, simple, direct sentences that conveyed a lot of emotion.

There’s (another) author from Czechoslovakia named Milan Kundera. Particularly his book “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” (is) important to me because of the way he interspersed fiction and nonfiction, and the personal essay and the fictional world. How he just mashed all those together was very inspiring to me.

Nowadays, whatever books I read inspire me. That’s why it’s hard for me to go back and think that everything I read, I wish I (had) read it 20 years ago.

I have been reading a lot of Norwegian writers recently; they inspire me a lot in the way they tell of big stories and saga stories. I’ve also been reading a bunch of contemporary French writers and literature. (What I like) is the way in which they also negotiate the nonfiction world and the fictional world at the same time.


Q: Do you have any plans for future books?

A: I’m working on a book now that will probably be three novellas all in one book – 60-page novellas – that (will) all come together. I’m not exactly sure how it will turn out. They (will) be on separate topics but probably thematically related.

—By Spencer Scott

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