• Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

"No, not at all. But again, I hate using the word 'career' even, because if I had a career, I think I would be writing a lot more. I don't look at writing as a career. I look at it as a hobby, as something that I enjoy doing, and I don't have a ton of ideas for books; I don't have 30 ideas sitting around. The books that I've published, that's pretty much it. Five books in 20 years. It doesn't seem like a lot to me. A lot of my contemporaries publish a book a year.

"I do tend to read my contemporaries, and I often scratch my head and wonder, 'Why the hell are you wasting your and my time with this book?' I mean, this must be so miserable to be forced to write this book within a period of nine months, so you can get it to your publisher, so you can get the hard cover out, so you can go out on tour."

"Did you think always that you wanted to be a writer?"

"Yes, I always thought that, ever since I was a little boy. I wrote many storybooks when I was a little boy. And, yes, it was always something that I was thinking about. Because I liked reading. And there were a lot of books in the house; my mom was a voracious reader. I loved the library. I read at a very early age. The pleasure that I got from reading was addictive enough in order for me to want to do it myself. I wanted to write.

"So that's where it came from. People often say, 'Oh, so, what teacher made you want to write?' 'What teacher was the one?' It wasn't any teacher. It was books. Books made me want to write. I did not take workshops in college because I wanted to learn how to write. I took workshops in college because I was already writing and I wanted to be in a writing workshop. That's basically it. And then Less Than Zero got published. But, yes, from a very early age on I always was writing.

"The other fact that would come into play, I was living in a household that had a very strained marriage in it, a lot of alcoholism, a lot of scariness, and it was a way for me to vent to myself, to talk to myself. Reading and writing were a means of escape. They were their own way of transporting myself out of the reality of what the situation was into another world. But the irony there was that I was writing very dark things. So it wasn't like I was writing science fiction stories or fantasy stories."

"But you didn't know anything else other than darkness."

"No, that's true. I didn't know anything else. That was my only point of reference was the darkness in the house."

"As in this new book, the narrator touches the gravestone and the stone drips blood."

"Right, right."

"The reader knows for sure then, 'I am in for something so strange.' But also, moments like that in Lunar Park are painful. In part, what unhappy children do when they write is that they try to make another world that they can live in. This book is full of that house."

"Yes. That's true and interesting. I don't like to look at books as therapy for the writer, though ultimately they are. Something gets resolved with every book you write. I did not expect the stuff that got lifted off me when I was finished with this book. I'd been in therapy a lot about my dad -- he died unexpectedly -- we were not speaking at the time, and it was a harder thing to take than I first thought. I was in shock that he had died so young. And so the shock of his death was what I related to for about a year or two. And then I began to realize the loss.

"He had gotten impossible in his last years. You could not talk to him. He was an impossible guy. But on the other hand, I do hear from friends who had strained relationships with their fathers in their 20s, that their families mellow out. Many of my male friends are surprised by this thing that's happening with them now as they're entering their 40s, that this strained relationship that they had with their fathers mellows with age. My father did have some good qualities. He was a very funny guy, and he did speak to the hypocrisy of stuff. He was very smart. But he also was extremely unhappy, and he drank too much. And he was an abusive guy.

"When I was writing the book, my dad was the point of reference that I kept thinking about all the time. I was talking to him while I was writing the book. And by the time I ended the book, I should have realized that therapy wasn't going to do it, what was going to do it was this. I'm a writer, I write novels, and this was what was going to resolve a lot of issues I had."

"Do you ever think that there are many people going through the world with whole pieces of your books in their head, and they no longer can separate them from their own memories or their own pasts?"

"Well, I am one of those people with other people's work. I have writers in my head that I'm always thinking about every day. And I guess books work that way. That's what's wonderful about them.

"Also, I was very surprised all over again, about how passionate people can become about a writer. I'm always so surprised because it's such a solitary thing. You're so alone. The whole process is lonely. And so when you're out, say, on a book tour, the juxtaposition between the creation of the book where you're alone in a room for five years, and then you're out in front of 800 people at a Barnes and Noble, and they're all telling you their feelings about this book that was just released. I don't know. It's kind of hard to take seriously almost. This is so strange."

  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

More from SDReader


Sign in to comment

Win a $25 Gift Card to
The Broken Yolk Cafe

Join our newsletter list

Each newsletter subscription means another chance to win!