MM: This is your first novel. What made you want to test-drive a new forum?
PS: In a lot of ways, I’ve always been a novelist. But shortly after college a friend approached me to co-write a screenplay with him. So began a few decades of work as a screenwriter, and it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I really had to reconcile the fact that I hadn’t yet written a published novel. I felt in a lot of ways that I’d strayed from my original path, and so in a fit of nostalgia, passion and idealism, I banged out The Far Shore. It felt great. Like coming home to a long-dormant creative muscle in the heart.
MM: What is the main difference between book writing and screenwriting?
PS: Filmmaking, and thus screenwriting, is by its nature a collaborative endeavor. Executives have an ungodly amount of notes, not to mention producers, actors and directors — everyone’s backseat-driving you. Writing the novel was a more autonomous act: you are indeed in a box and battle through your days with only your own inner voice as compass, which can be unsettling for some, but for me is profoundly liberating. If you want to write because there’s a burning need to express an idea in a pure, unadulterated form, write a book. You won’t get paid as much as you would writing for Hollywood, but you’ll have the fulfillment of creating a work that is largely of you, for you and might contribute something to the world.
MM: Would you classify The Far Shore as a thriller?
PS: The Far Shore is hard to classify in terms of genre. On one level it’s a mystery: what happened to Lily’s grandfather? Can she locate his old bones, and for it be rewarded the $16 million she’s due as his sole heir? But what it really becomes is a spiritual exploration of both Lily, who’s cast into places wholly unfamiliar and occasionally harrowing to her, and her grandfather, who, having witnessed the hells of war, set out to find if there was spiritual liberation from the pains of life. It runs from the battlefields of World War II to the Buddhist monasteries of Myanmar.