I think part of it is that shaping metaphors out of life from the s made some of the similes and analogies simpler. But when you try to make a simile or a metaphor out of the nouns of s, simplicity and clarity make more sense. There is a theme in the recent reviews — kind of praising you for putting away childish things. Is that how you see it? I felt more in control when I was writing this book. It seemed unfair to spare myself the knife. Putting out all these principles, I should probably apply them to myself!
And so I became a much better editor of my own stuff over the last couple of years. Photo: Bobby Doherty Have you changed in other ways? Cora is not someone who would have occurred to me 15 years ago.
Not everyone makes it to the other side, but they have a team, a community. She has to rely on other people to give her the notion that she can do it and also show her the path. Slavery meant something different to me when I was 8, and 20, and then now. I would joke about having to do [a slavery novel] at talks, knowing in the back of my head I had this idea sitting there.
And you wanted to be weird? I was very self-conscious starting out. It was about race, but in a way that I could handle when I was 27, just a weird way no one else would do. You even reprinted actual classified ads for fugitive slaves. Where did you get them and why did you open every section with one? Those are from the University of North Carolina, which digitized their old newspapers.
And writing one for Cora seemed like a nice gift from the narrator to her, because I was sort of bummed out about what I was doing to her. There are some truly horrific scenes in the novel, especially involving slaves who were caught escaping. Were those all real punishments from yourresearch? I would go back and forth and think, is that too crazy, and go back to a couple of narratives and think, actually no.
But you depicted worse. You must have been a mess. I was a mess mostly before I started writing. I have a protagonist, and realistically she will be sexually assaulted before the book starts, realistically her mother will be assaulted.
So just wrapping my head around what was a realistic backstory for her was terrible. And then I think it has affected how I feel about her at the end of the book. When I reread the last couple of pages, I feel bad for having put her through it. They look the same, but now they want to destroy you, to consume you.
And you have to keep running. I had zombie anxiety dreams. For decades. Depending on what was going on in my life at the time, I was pursued by fast zombies or slow zombies.
I was alone or with a group. For me, killer robots and giant grasshoppers had nothing on people. In , when I was in seventh grade, my family moved downtown, to a new building on Fifty-seventh and First. My brother and I could walk to school, there was a pizza joint down the street with a cigarette-scarred Asteroids machine, and the corner Optimo sold comic books.
This was good training for a writer, for the sooner you accept the fact that you are a deluded idiot who is always out of step with reality the better off you will be.
The rest were horror flicks. We no longer had to rummage through the TV listings and stay up until 3 A. In fact, my brother and I were in charge now, programming the family film festivals. More and more, the only time the six of us were in the same place was on a movie night, usually after a holiday meal.
We were not a carolling clan. The early eighties were the heyday of slasher and splatter movies. This was before Facebook. The movie was grim and lean, a low-budget affair that made millions. Sure, you made your name in chainsaws, but can you do nail guns in soft tissue?
My brother and I dropped the stack of Betamax tapes on the coffee table and got to work, two or three movies on Friday night, the rest on Saturday. Perhaps you never subscribed to Fangoria, or only infrequently grabbed a copy on the newsstand. Let me refresh your memory.
Where was the blood? This new breed of horror magazine had buckets of blood, and viscera to boot, in full-color production stills of mortified bodies stuffed into refrigerators, surveys of charred flesh, foldout posters of suppurating corpses. The articles were fawning chronicles of on-set visits, retrospectives of pioneering visionaries, and barely edited interviews with scream queens and fright-film directors. They taste good, too! At the pinnacle were those who appeared in the mainstream press as well as in the monster mags: Famous Directors, who dropped the occasional genre outing in with their more so-called highbrow offerings.
And it was O. Fangoria was a strong advocate of auteur theory, the entrails brigade. I got an A, if I recall correctly, but that was New York in the early eighties. The ascension, years later, of horror gods like Cronenberg and Raimi to critical and mainstream respectability validated all those hours of flipping through Fangoria. We were talent scouts. On what he does when he is writing: A typical workday is 10am-3 pm, getting pages.
I do a lot of outlining before I start, so I know the destination. On whether he does research: Depends! For Sag Harbor, I watched 80s movies and listened to new wave music and old school hip hop. Not too taxing! My poker book, The Noble Hustle, meant learning how to play tournament poker, reading up, and interviewing poker players. Fun, but still work.
We talked before Moonlight came out, gave him the go-ahead because he had great ideas, and then he proceeded to blow up the next month. On how he reconciles the realist impulse with the speculative, and history with fiction: You pick the right tool for the job: realism, fantasy, plot-driven, voice-driven, first person narrator, omniscient narrator.
I can do what I want, if it works. And of course all the sci-fi I read growing up told me that an alt-history was a legitimate storytelling form. So it all seems natural to me, no reconciling needed!On whether he would rather fight 50 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck: 50 small, mallard-ish horses, and. I was five, my brother a year younger horror movies. You got the call from Oprah months ago, and then had to keep it a secret until now. Ghetts devlin lowkey dissertation exploited cultural trends and fads, and buried cultural trends and fads with the shoddy facts of themselves.
This is your first book to come out to universal acclaim in a long time. The Wizard of Earthsea books. Like an imbecile. The rest were horror flicks. Considered by some to be the high-water mark of the genre. Weeks before, some bored drone at the TV station had decided to dump it into this time slot, and today I happened to be home from school with bronchitis.
You laugh at it. What the hell is going on in this scene? The rest were horror flicks. In , when I was in seventh grade, my family moved downtown, to a new building on Fifty-seventh and First.
So even though I play with history and time, in terms of moving the Tuskegee syphilis experiments down and bringing the implications of the Holocaust in, I wanted the first chapter to be as realistic as I could do it. The ascension, years later, of horror gods like Cronenberg and Raimi to critical and mainstream respectability validated all those hours of flipping through Fangoria.
Weldon defined the movies this way: Psychotronic films range from sincere social commentary to degrading trash. I got it out of my system, and then also as I did more research, I wanted to honor all the people who had been in slavery, to the dead, to my ancestors. No one else can finish it except you—so you might as well get back to work. I had zombie anxiety dreams.
Yeah, the best week of my professional career, so. I wanted to be realistic to my notion of psychology. Pretty strange. We were not a carolling clan. Maybe I have to keep writing and come back to that part of the story later.
You must have been a mess. I was on my way to work at Princeton and wrote an email to my editor, Bill Thomas.
This is your first book to come out to universal acclaim in a long time. Depending on what was going on in my life at the time, I was pursued by fast zombies or slow zombies. At this very moment, somewhere out there, a young woman is telling her parents that she wants to be a poet. We no longer had to rummage through the TV listings and stay up until 3 A. And so I became a much better editor of my own stuff over the last couple of years. I never had another choice for Mabel.
It was a guy on his own, then a man looking for a child, a child looking for a parent, and finally a daughter looking for a mother. But when you try to make a simile or a metaphor out of the nouns of s, simplicity and clarity make more sense. For me, killer robots and giant grasshoppers had nothing on people. The character portrait of the last couple of books merged with the larger abstract question. Cora is not someone who would have occurred to me 15 years ago.
Who is more interesting to hear from after North Carolina—Martin or Ethel? So it became all about elevators, in an alternative world where elevators are very important.
I kept working, and if that meant departing from the realm of normal people to enter the psychotronic, so be it. Some, some not.