I am trying to write novels for properly clever people, but I also want them to be proper novels that also stick in a person’s mind and have an atmosphere about them.
Many novels and modern publications are corrupters of morals or distorters of truth.
My novels are about a generation of Americans who lived between 1940 and 2000, who resisted the postwar political and cultural forces by choosing a wandering life of impoverishment and wonder. Inevitably, race and economics are a big part of their stories. Childhood, childishness, and children are never far.
Many people have told me that my books read like novels. Perhaps this is because, when I write, I feel I am really there, so strong is my feeling for my subject. On occasion, I have been so moved by the events I have been describing that I have felt like crying.
I feel very strongly that where the facts exist, a historical novelist should use them if they’re writing about a person who really lived, because a lot of people come to history through historical novels. I did. And a lot of people want their history that way.
Novels are the Socratic dialogues of our time. Practical wisdom fled from school wisdom into this liberal form.
We’ve all faced the charge that our novels are history lite, and to some extent, that’s true. Yet for some, historical fiction is a way into reading history proper.
My crime novels are highly structured. I never start out with a dead body. I start with an impossible scenario. Opening questions should be mysterious, weird, intriguing, and contain the seeds of the solution. The structure has to be meticulous – I’m a structure freak.
I love mystery novels… I love seeing the dramas played out in academic departments, particularly English departments. I started reading these when I was going up for tenure.
I began my writing life as a poet, so poetry has always been fundamental. I evolved from poetry to journalism to stories to novels. But poetry was always there.