Excerpts from the interview:
“Generation Loss started out as a straightforward fantasy; some of the fantastic element was built in from the get-go and didn't get lost in subsequent versions. I've always wanted to write about what it would be like if magic really did exist, as this other dimension we're not quite aware of, that we can't see but can sense sometimes -- what would it be like to live in that world? Well, maybe we do live in that world. If you're writing a fantasy novel, you have the immanence of another world erupting into this world, one way or another.
“In this book, Cass's sense of the damage in other people is a buried supernatural element. Cass is not named Cassandra by accident. Neither is Aphrodite Kamestos. Originally I wanted to do a retelling of the story of Eros and Psyche: Psyche falls in love with Eros, but when the drop of lamp oil falls on him he flees, and she goes to his mother Aphrodite, who gives her a task she must perform to get her lover back. In Generation Loss, Aphrodite is the mother of Gryffin, the Eros character, and I left that in as a mythic substructure that people may or may not notice. It didn't detract from the story, and it gave a certain nuance to the process of writing it.
“Structurally, the novel didn't change much (the setting and characters were in place), but the plot was different. It didn't work as a fantasy novel, and it didn't work as a horror novel either, so at a certain point it morphed into Generation Loss. For a years I'd wanted to write a story involving a serial killer. When I saw Silence of the Lambs I thought, 'You know, I could do that. Getting into the head of that kind of person is not so different from what I usually do.'”
“Much of the book was inspired by real things that happened in the general vicinity of where I live in Maine. (Like Smilla's Sense of Snow, it's another 'terrible things happen in a cold place' book.) When we read about these events in the Bangor Daily News, they don't resolve; they're not media-ready stories. I thought, 'If somebody actually got involved with this, how might the story unfold?' I'd never written anything without a fantastic element before. The novel has some fantastic underpinnings but not the sort of lyrical swoops or bells and whistles that my other work has (the prose is very stripped-down, not lyrical). It was like working without a net -- very frightening, very disorienting. But I'm happy with the way the writing came out.”
“Much of Illyria is true, drawn from my own experience. I've wanted to use Twelfth Night in fiction since 1974, when I was 17 years old and first saw a high school production of the play. My boyfriend played Malvolio; another close friend was an unforgettable Feste. At university, I'd spend hours in the library and read everything I could about Twelfth Night. I desperately wanted to do something with that play -- I loved it with a passion. I attempted to use it in Winterlong, and I've tried over and over since then in different ways. Last year, when I was working on Illyria, I lived in this Twelfth Night bubble -- I bought every DVD or film version that was available, and all I did was watch it and reread the text. I can't tell you how happy I was to be able to write that story.”
“It can be exhausting to write at that fever pitch. Some people take the career path of being an academic and having a teaching position. I know they get health insurance, and respect from their peers and from the literary establishment. But I never wanted to do that. I've always wanted to be the ink-stained wretch. I don't want to get up in the morning and go to a job in an office. I don't want to deal with other people.”
“I'm almost finished with Pandora's Bride, which is a romp. The central character is the Bride of Frankenstein; I set her loose in Weimar Germany, where she encounters characters from German expressionist films (The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, Pandora's Box, M, Metropolis), and of course the characters from The Bride of Frankenstein. I'm also completing a YA fantasy called Wonderwall. It's about a 16-year-old runaway in Washington, DC who is a cutter (a self-mutilator) but also an artist, a painter. She runs away and finds a portal through time and space, and she meets the young Arthur Rimbaud. When he was 16, Rimbaud ran away from home several times, so I've taken the missing days in his life and given her this series of encounters with him. It goes back and forth between her point of view in DC and his in Paris around the 1870s. I love Rimbaud -- he was a teenager when he wrote some of his greatest work, just a kid. Brilliant, extremely precocious, but if you read his letters, so much of his behavior is familiar from the way kids act -- his relationships with his friends and with his teachers. He was a recognizable adolescent; I could envision him hanging out with my kids and their friends. I thought it would be cool to explore that without writing down to young readers.”