Excerpts from the interview:
When I was writing 'Cleopatra Brimstone', I was exchanging e-mails with M. John Harrison, one of the writers whose work most excites me. I think The Course of the Heart and Signs of Life are two of the most brilliant books I've read of any kind. The pivotal event in Signs involves a character who has spent his whole life on a destructive rampage. As it turns out, when he was a teenager, he had an erotically charged encounter with a green woman, a supernatural being. And this glimpse of the paranatural destroyed his life. That one scene seemed to crystalize everything for me. For my whole writing life, I've been trying to get that sense across. Because in real life, if something that strange were to happen to you, you'd lose it you'd puke, you'd lose your mind. It would be like taking someone from 200 years ago, stuffing them into an airline seat, and then sending them up in the air. They would completely flip out. I've had scenes in my work where I try to get at that feeling, though usually, I've had people respond that way to the natural rather than supernatural world.
I suppose [my next novel] Mortal Love is just trying to get to the heart of the question, What makes somebody create something? What kind of 'dark matter' do we tap into when we try to write or paint or compose or perform? What fuels that? Whatever this dark matter is, it can be dangerous. Poets have the highest suicide rate of any professional demographic. Writers have the highest rate of alcoholism. Actors have the highest divorce rate. These are not model citizens; and yet they're producing things that people want to see, to experience.... I have no belief in the supernatural per se, but if something gives you a numinous experience, what do you call the thing that generates that experience? I'm fascinated by that question.
The Faerie mythos gave Victorian artists a framework in which to express a lot of their fears: their anxieties, their desires, notions of sexuality. This was their chance to draw naked women, naked children, people in chains or bound to trees. A great outlet! A British writer who did a non-fiction book on the history of fairies, particularly in Victorian consciousness, said that whenever we become culturally aware of what fairies stand for, we lose interest in them. That's when fairies disappear from popular culture, from genuine folklore. It's interesting that right now we're seeing a resurgence in fairy lore, fairy literature and movies. Obviously we need them again but why?
As for being a Catholic writer, I certainly had a Catholic upbringing and education, moderated somewhat by the fact that my mother was a Protestant who converted to Catholicism when I was seven. I've written elsewhere that I think the whole Catholic worldview can provide a template for the fantastic or supernatural, and certainly the most brilliant fantasists writing today John Crowley, chiefly, and Gene Wolfe, but also people like Tim Powers, Gwyneth Jones, and James Patrick Kelly (who went to the same parochial school I did) grew up exposed to the traditions of the Church. But that doesn't necessarily imply belief. It certainly doesn't in my case. Though I respect and occasionally envy people who maintain faith in some sort of divinity, I don't.