By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
What’s your blog’s mission?
I have components to the mission. It is an elastic mission at best. To keep my readers apprised of the news of the day. To point them to worthy resources, articles, events. But in a larger sense, I want to create a place, a literary nexus where people can come to agree or disagree.
Why is Count of Monte Cristo a touchstone for you?
I remember as a kid being haunted by the idea of 17 years of imprisonment and tunneling out; it stuck in my consciousness. I came back to it in my 20s, and it was a triumph of narrative and plot. I was writing my first chapter, where [Harry] goes into the café and orders the Monte Cristo, because it seemed funny to me that someone with such fastidious taste would be given this disgusting sandwich. I realized, whoa, there’s big potential in using that book, with its own themes of change and reinvention of self.
In your acknowledgments, you say it’s a different experience having published your first novel in your 40s.
I’ve experienced things in the world more than the inside of a writing program. You see the differences in books in general that are written later in life as opposed to the 25-year-old wunderkind. It’s not that those books aren’t worth reading, and some of these young people have just shocking mountains of talent. They’re incredible, but the pages are still empty. They haven’t lived a life yet. I’m in awe of their talent, but I’m not yet interested in what they have to say.
There’s such an emphasis on the wunderkind.
Oh, yeah. It’s potentially depressing if you’re an older writer toiling away. If I had just been a 43-year-old dude with a first novel coming out, without the blog, I don’t know thatI’d be a pulse anywhere. In some ways, publishing learned some of the worst lessons of Hollywood. There’s this obsession with the blockbuster, the high concept, the young and the beautiful. And those things are not why people turn to literature.
Did you ever imagine you would write a novel?
When I was a kid, my mother made me write a report for her on my first decade. When I turned 10 years old, she wanted me to write a memoir. Writing Harry was as much about telling myself I could do it, that I had the chops to get to the end. That was a big day for me, when I finished it. With any luck, I can do it again.
Maybe that’s why writers want to do it. It’s the Tour de France of writing.
It very much is. We view the novel as the pinnacle of the form. When a novel hits all the marks, when it does what the form promises, it endures. We’re sitting in my dining room in Pacific Palisades talking about The Count of Monte Cristo more than a hundred years later. Those things sustain. And there’s a reason they sustain, and that’s a tradition that all novelists want to be a part of. To summon an entire world into being out of nothing? Brain surgeons have nothing on novelists.
Do you see Harry as a movie?
Yes. Everybody else does. There are discussions under way as we speak. We’ve been approached; there’s interest. My agent asked me if I want to write the adaptation, and I said no. I’m much more interested in writing my next novel.