Τhe fun part of being a writer

Ο Κόλσον Γουάιτχεντ για το (δικαίως) πολυσυζητημένο νέο του μυθιστόρημα, Zone One (oλόκληρη η συνέντευξη εδώ):

Your book is set at a very strange moment on the zombie-attack timeline. The humans have won back some semblance of organization and are in the process of clearing out lower Manhattan. There is new hope upon the land. But there are some ominous signs that things may not be as they seem. Why’d you pick this particular time?

In the zombie genre, the first night or first five days of the disaster are pretty well chronicled. So there’s that. But doesn’t a lot of post-apocalyptic literature begin at a moment of flux? The young hero departs the underground bunker to see what’s left of the surface world. Word comes of a haven by the ocean where survivors have rebuilt things. The refuge finally collapses after all this time, and now we have to discover or create a new one. Things are in a settled, steady state of awfulness. We have survived. Now where do we proceed?

There are two kinds of zombies in your book, the traditional face-eating variety and the vacant stragglers who just stand somewhere as the world goes by. Why add in the second variety?

You take what you want from a genre, deform it, steal from it, pay homage, and at the same time, if you’re doing it right, you are extending the possibilities of that genre, reinvigorating it. I wanted to be true to a Romero-style version of existential zombie dread, but of course the fun part of being a writer is making up shit. So the stragglers appear, as an avatar of the post-collapse self, one possible way of doing things when everything falls apart. They are a vehicle for some of the things I wanted to explore in the novel, whether they are of the tradition or not.

Your novel is a fascinating examination of talent, or our definitions of talent. Spitz is mediocre, and that’s what he’s good at, as you emphasize from beginning to end. It turns out that is an important skill. Why do the mediocre succeed after the zombies come?

If you’re smart, you kill yourself. If you’re dumb, you’re not going to make it. That leaves the rest of us.

*Εντελώς άσχετο με τα λογοτεχνικά (αν ο συγγραφέας κρινόταν από τα ρούχα του θα μας είχε φάει το μαύρο φίδι): η γιορς τρούλι, μεταξύ του γιλέκου του Γουάιτχεντ και του απείρως διασημότερου γιλέκου του Τζέφρι Ευγενίδη (το γιλέκο στο τουίτερ) ψηφίζει με φανατισμό γκρούπι το πρώτο.  Δατς χάου ιτς νταν, μπόιζ.

The skyline as a collaboration

They were living rebukes to nostalgia, these Goliaths that had crushed small businesses, vibrant streetscapes, generational continuities, and other romantic notions beneath their giant feet. Yet it was nostalgia he felt for them. A skyline was a collaboration, if an inadvertent one, between generations, seeming no less natural than a mountain range that had shuddered up from the earth. This new gap in space reversed time.

Έιμι Γουόλντμαν, The Submission

[Εδώ για τη φωτογραφία]

Writing should be a dangerous activity

Η Τίφανι Γιανίκ για το βιβλίο της How to Escape from a Leper Colony (Graywolf Press, 2010 – απόσπασμα):

Many of the stories in your collection have multiple characters telling the same story. Why did you take this approach?

Creating a story is less important to me than creating a human being on the page. For example, the Anansi stories my grandmother used to tell me. I remember Anansi and how tricky and playful he was and what an ass he was most of the time. I remember these traits much more than I remember what actually happened in the story. So for me, the kind of fiction I enjoy and the kind of fiction I write relies on intriguing characters more so than a clever plot. I know plot is important but starting with that isn’t the most natural thing for me. It’s something that happens way after I develop my characters.

Many of the stories in the collection use a male voice. What techniques do you use when you’re writing in the voice of a different gender?

I was afraid to do it. I was always sensitive to the fact that I was writing from a male perspective, a male voice. I was very careful about it. It meant treading slowly and being specific. You’re in danger, you know? You’re walking on glass. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. But I think you have to be aware of the danger that you’re putting yourself and your character into.

Each character in the book demanded a different technique. For example, when I wrote “Street Man”, I spent time in St. Thomas. I just sat on the corner and talked to the guys there. I really listened to them, what they thought about love, how they spoke about it. And I listened to not just what they said, but how they said it. What kind of vocabulary did they use, what kind of sentence structure. I was being a kind of anthropologist—or maybe just a nosy-ass chick.  Those men helped me figure out how to create an honest,non-anthropological character.

You spoke of being in danger when creating a character. What do you feel in danger of?

I mean that writing should be a dangerous activity.  You should be risking something large.  Otherwise, what really are you offering your reader?  Or yourself, for that matter.  I think when you write a character that is a different sex than you are you have to be aware that you are writing into a space that is foreign to you.  You are heading into foreign territory.  There might be landmines there.  Shit, you just didn’t know about the terrain of that character.

Ολόκληρη η συνέντευξη εδώ.

It’s not that easy being a woman

“What is this work of yours?”
“Look, I told you before. I don’t want to discuss my job here. I can say this much, though: it’s not that easy being a woman.”
“Well, it’s not easy being a man, either.”
“Maybe not, but you never have to put on a lacy bra when you don’t want to.”
“True…”
“So don’t pretend to know what you’re talking about. Women have it much tougher than men. Have you ever had to climb down a steep stairway in high heels, or climb over a barricade in a miniskirt?”
“I owe you an apology,” the man said simply.

Χαρούκι Μουρακάμι, 1Q84

People selling things to themselves

One of the things that’s perennially fascinating about the world is the way people sell things to themselves. If people feel the need to sell something to themselves, that tells its own tale.

Έλεν ΝτεΓουίτ, Lightning Rods

Η συγγραφέας για την επιλογή της να γράψει από την οπτική γωνία ενός άντρα (ολόκληρη η συνέντευξη εδώ):

Your protagonist in Lightning Rods is a man. As a woman, is it harder to write from the male POV?

Funnily enough, I now find it easier to come up with male characters. When I was a child I drew incessantly, but could only draw girls – I would draw up lists of girls’ names, every name I could think of, on yellow legal pads, and then draw long sagas with this cast of hundreds of girls. And I couldn’t draw boys at all. But at some point, I’m not sure how this happened, I started to notice the way men are obsessives: creating a male character doesn’t feel like writing from a ‘male’ POV, what you do is you get inside the head of someone with a particular kind of obsession, and understanding the obsession makes the character plausible, and this turns out to feel like a male character because women are often more inhibited (I feel) about giving free reign to their obsessions.

There’s also – bearing in mind the fact that LR is partly about sex – that men are more confident about generalizing from their own sexual preferences to those of other men. If you (I) talk to a man, the man will often say something like “Most men are interested in breasts.” I think: WOW. How do you know? I assume YOU know your sexual preferences; how can you be so confident that most other men share them? Did you do a survey? Because I certainly think I know my own sexual preferences, but I would never feel confident of generalizing from them to say Most women are interested in X. So it’s possible to be much more confident, creating a male character with certain sexual preferences, that the character will be plausible. (And then, you know, I’d show the book to men and laugh because it actually worked.)