I write because I don’t work well with others. Were I to direct a narrative film, I would have to hire dozens of people at ridiculous salaries. With a novel, I do all the jobs myself. I write and shoot the scenes, play all the parts. I dress the set, costume the actors, and do their make-up. I design, build, and paint the sets. When I have my first draft, I do all the editing. When it is finished, nobody can destroy what I have created. This is why I choose the novel, but is it really why I write?
No. I write to resurrect the dead. Not just people, but places and things. The block in West Hollywood where I set my novel The Goners” is no longer there. Half of the people who the inspired the characters are now dead. None of the 1978 ambiance remains. But all of it is alive in my book. That is one of the reasons I write.
If one reason is to commune with the dead, another is to communicate with the living. My newest story, “Cry” adapts the fairy tale form in order to address contemporary concerns. Many of the ideas I have on politics, religion, and, and social issues are too renegade to discuss in serious company, but I can transfer them into the heads of strangers through the fairy tale milieu.
I write in order to do things that I don’t want to do in real life. Three years ago I was invited to run for mayor in Ilo, Peru. This was the last thing I wanted to do, especially since so many Peruvian mayors wind up murdered or imprisoned. Still, the idea of being mayor intrigued me, so I began work on a novel entitled “The Mayor is a Gringo,” and the mayor of the title tries to do all the things I would do were I the mayor, and he ends by paying for it with his life.
Meanwhile, I endure. Writing is a job that is sometimes an adventure. I do it because I was born for it. I’ve been scribbling and juggling words since I was a child. I was reading books long before I knew what the words meant, and writing stories long before I had anything to say. It takes a lifetime to become a good writer, and even then there is no guarantee anybody will be interested in what you have to say. Every time I sit down to write, I feel like I am stepping into the ring with Joe Louis. When I am finished for the day, I feel like I have just survived ten rounds with the champion.. After that, I don’t much care what happens.