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.