Books·How I Wrote It

Adam Foulds explores how magical thinking and celebrity fandom collide in his novel Dream Sequence

The Toronto-based author is on the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist for his seventh novel.
Dream Sequence is a novel by Adam Foulds. (Biblioasis, Nigel Barklie)

Adam Foulds's Dream Sequence takes place in the alternating worlds of a celebrity and his devoted fan. Henry is a successful British television actor, consumed by the desire to land his first major role in a Spanish auteur's next film. Kristin is a recently divorced American woman convinced that she and Henry are written in the stars.

Foulds is a British-born novelist who currently lives in Toronto. In 2013, he was named one of Granta's best young writers. 

Dream Sequencehis seventh novel, is on the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist. The shortlist will be announced on Sept. 30.

Foulds spoke to CBC Books about writing Dream Sequence.

Inspiration from acting

"Dream Sequence crystallized out of a few years of disparate experience, both of my own and friends of mine. There were things that I was experiencing — including visiting Doha in Qatar and seeing a friend navigate the acting world — that made an impression on me.

"Actors epitomize that experience of feeling precarious and marketing and presenting oneself. They are also self-conscious and competitive in a continuously anxious way. 

Actors epitomize that experience of feeling precarious and marketing and presenting oneself. They are also self-conscious and competitive in a continuously anxious way.- Adam Foulds

"Being near people going through the audition process, which is so gruelling and torturous, makes an impression. Actors go through what are basically job interviews every week or two, for which they often are not contacted about again. You can see how hard that is on someone's resilience and determination."

The impact of magical thinking

"Kristin is based on real people and real cases that I know about. She suffers from a kind of magical thinking that we all do. Every so often, we all think that something was meant to be, that we were meant to be with a particular someone, or that everything will be all right if the universe wants it to happen.

"There's a new kind of mysticism, which is an interesting convergence between self-help language, therapy language, yoga, astrology and tarot. People are making meanings and re-magicking in the world in a way that is very different from formal religion, but has coalesced into a cultural moment.

"Kristin is someone who's had that in her life in the form of a very intense, almost, religious experience — the moment she first meets Henry randomly at an airport in America. She has this mystical experience of the universe being loving at its heart and there is this particular connection between her and this person that the universe wants. Her journey in the book is her attempt to bring her reality into alignment with that deeper reality."

The highs and lows of the writing life

"I'm keen that what I'm writing should be exceptionally interesting. Often at the end of the writing process, I'm often unsure about the value of what I've written and rely on sending it to people to tell me if it's come off at all. There are, generally toward the end and throughout, patches of profound self-doubt.

When I feel like I've hit on the right phrase and it feels like it might have a lasting kind of resonance — that moment is full of excitement and elation.- Adam Foulds

"But there are also moments of pleasure. When I feel like I've hit on the right phrase and it feels like it might have a lasting kind of resonance — that moment is full of excitement and elation."

Adam Foulds's comments have been edited for length and clarity. You can read more interviews in the How I Wrote It series here.

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