In mountain towns, children play a game called Devil’s Hopscotch. Perhaps it’s a game that’s played everywhere, under different names. It goes like this: One player chooses a marker—a fork-shaped stick, a piece of reddish shale, a furred leaf that resembles the torn ear of a dead cat. The marker is set upon a square in an ordinary chalked grid of hopscotch. And the game beings as usual: A throw. A series of hops. A bend, graceful or teetering to a near fall. The tip of a sneaker crossing a line. Boundaries called and kept. Again. Again. All leading to the final chalked box and a return one hopes is every bit as uneventful as the cleanest advance. But here’s the rub: if your marker lands in the box with the Devil’s Marker, you partner with Old Scratch and have the option to do his handiwork when the opportunity arises. The option, mind you, the option. The problem is, that blasted marker won’t stay still. It flips and skips of its own accord, changing shapes as it moves, so that you can’t be sure until the last minute, when head spinning, you bend to see, that you’ve knocked against the devil’s marker. Confusion, disbelief—all part of the game, and so, should it be a surprise when a simple game of hopscotch devolves into stone-throwing and bloodied fingers, the weakest children ironically becoming the best devil?
Adults who have studied the games of children allow that the Devil’s Hopscotch makes for an interesting variation, but doesn’t alter the concept of play since the possibility of trouble is present in all social interactions. The children, of course, devils breaking out on all sides of them, must disagree.
-Excerpt from A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain by Adrianne Harun. Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Adrianne Harun, 2014
Late Night Library: Summarize your book in 10 words or fewer.
Adrianne Harun: Five friends meet the devil in a British Columbian town.
LNL: If this book were the lovechild of two others, who are its parents?
AH: Hm…maybe Calvino’s Invisible Cities and S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders?
LNL: What ingredients go into the recipe of your writing style?
AH: A ton of reading, mangled stolen rhythms from William Trevor, manufactured confidence, desire for honesty, and a constant search for a seductive inner propulsion.
LNL: Name one book you wish you could read again for the first time.
AH: Nabokov’s Pale Fire.
LNL: Answer a question you wish people would ask you about writing.
AH: I do hope we truly are heading into a post-genre era in fiction. I know it’s convenient and time-saving to have our tastes identified and channeled ala Amazon’s famous “if you liked x, you’ll like y” equation, but the flip side is that readers’ choices become more and more defined (by someone else) and therefore limited, also pushing writers to become more specialized and less willing to push boundaries that can take a story into interesting places. A good novel might have the suspense of a thriller, the constant yearning of a romance, the thoughtful language and structure of a literary novel, and perhaps the quirky vision of a sci-fi classic. Why label it as just one sort of book for one sort of reader?
Get a copy of A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain at IndieBound.
Adrianne Harun’s prize-winning short fiction, essays, and book reviews have been published in numerous magazines and journals, including Story, the Chicago Tribune, Narrative Magazine, Ontario Review, The Sun, Willow Springs, and Colorado Review. Her short story collection, The King of Limbo was a Sewanee Writing Series selection and a Washington State Book Award finalist. Stories from an upcoming collection have been noted as “Distinguished Stories” in both Best American Mystery Stories and Best American Short Stories. Adrianne is also a member of the core faculty of the Rainier Writing Workshops, an MFA program at Pacific Lutheran University, as well as a faculty member at the Sewanee School of Letters at the University of the South. She lives with her husband in Port Townsend, Washington.