Q: Ian is such a compelling and convincing narrative voice – how did you develop his character? Does he bear a resemblance to anyone in your own life?
A: Usually I can pinpoint an exact moment when I started hearing a character voice. There’s generally a germ or a seed that gives me a little buzz of excitement and leads me to do some research. And then I start hearing a voice, or seeing a scene over and over. That’s when I sit down to start writing.
But I don’t know why I started hearing Ian. He was just in my head one day. I knew that he was a graphic novelist, and that he had some major problems that he was keeping at bay with his various addictions – pills, work, weed. He was in a dark spiral and in a toxic relationship that was enabling his various issues. But that was all I knew. When I first started hearing him, he had an apocalyptic hangover. So that’s where we started our journey together, on the cold floor of his bathroom.
Q: Comic books, and comic book culture, are an obviously important thread in CRAZY LOVE YOU. Is it a world you were already familiar with before starting the novel? How did you do your research, if not?
A: I was not familiar with this world – AT ALL. In fact, I had to call my friend author Gregg Hurwitz (who writes comics as well as stellar thrillers) and say: “You know, my new character is a graphic novelist and I don’t know anything about this. Can you help me?”
He put me in touch with Jud Meyer from Blast Off Comics in West Hollywood. And Jud opened the door to this world for me. He shared his own experiences, sent me piles of books, and answered all my questions. I just dove into this very colorful and amazingly creative universe and loved every minute. Jud was a the perfect guide, as well as the sweetest, kindest person in the world. He was the best source a writer could have.
Q: Ian as a kid finds incredible solace in comic books, so much so that he dedicates his life to that world. When did you discover mysteries? When did you realize that you wanted to write your own?
A: I think most creative people find a home in their art before they find one in the real world. Books were certainly my first love, and the darker, the more thrilling, the more complex better. So I was young (inappropriately so) when I started reading mysteries, thriller and horror novels.
My family moved around a lot, so even when I was the outsider at a new school or a new neighborhood, I was at home with books. Pretty early I had that moment where I went from being a reader to being a writer, from being someone who disappeared into other people’s stories to one who wanted to create her own. Once I discovered that I could do that, I never stopped. I really relate to that part of Ian who prefers a fictional world to the often cruel and unforgiving real one.
Q: Like many of your other books, CRAZY LOVE YOU takes place, at least partially, in the town of The Hollows, which has almost become a character in its own right. What are the unique challenges and satisfactions of developing a background or setting over the course of several books? Is there a real place that you feel is closest to The Hollows?
A: When I first visited The Hollows, I didn’t think very much of it. It seemed like it could just be Anytown, USA. I didn’t really know where it was, somewhere in the Tri-State area. I had this vision of a place that was part rural, part a kind of village, with a hint of dark energy. Subconsciously, I think the town of Sleepy Hollow was a bit of an inspiration. I like the name and the history, its connection to a literary ghost story. But I didn’t consciously think of any of that when I was writing. It was just a place with a strange name.
But once I visited The Hollows, I just kept going back there. And each time I went, The Hollows evolved, and I get to know it better. I learned something new about it every time, and yet kept revisiting the same spots. I started to see it as a place with a personality and an agenda. The Hollows wants something, and I’m not totally sure what it is.
The challenges of writing about a fictional place are the same as what’s satisfying about it. It’s totally my vision – streets, restaurants, homes, people, the woods, the river, the abandoned mine tunnels. There was nothing there until I put it there – which is both challenging and extremely cool. Making sure everything gels from book to book can be a little harrowing.
My brother swears that The Hollows is based on the town where we grew up called Long Valley, New Jersey. But, of course, it isn’t that, though I can see why he thinks so. And maybe there are some similarities. But it’s like all fictional places (and people) it is an amalgamation of my experiences and imaginings, part real but mostly real only in my fictional universe.
Q: The history of The Hollows is such an important facet of the novel. Is small town history something you’re particularly interested in? Are you familiar with the history of the place you live now?
A: I am interested in history, certainly. But mainly I am interested in personal history, the stories we tell ourselves about our past and how it effects our actions in the present. Most people aren’t living in the present tense; our memories of the past impact our perceptions of the present, and our hopes for the future. And that is true of places, too. History is just a story that we tell ourselves. Some of it is true. Some of it so influenced by the teller that it is a biased version of the truth, and so not true at all.
A town has a collective history that shapes its identity, as well as the identities of the people who live there. What does it mean to be a New Yorker, a Parisian, a Floridian (in my case), or a resident of The Hollows? We come to identify with our location, and nowhere is that more true than a small town, especially when you’ve lived there all your life. Your identity becomes indivisible from that place. That’s really what fascinates me about the The Hollows, its living history and how it impacts the people who live there.
Q: One of the most fun aspects of CRAZY LOVE YOU as a reader is the unreliability of Ian’s narration. As an author, what is particularly intriguing about an unreliable narrator? Is it more or less difficult than a traditional narrator?
A: All narrators are unreliable to some extent. In fact, anyone telling you a story is unreliable. They can only tell events through the filter of their perception, which might be very different from another person’s perception. Of course, Ian is slightly more unreliable than most considering that he’s pill-addled, mentally unstable, and far prefers to live within the pages of his graphic novel than in the real world. But I follow character voice. And I was willing to go with Ian wherever he wanted to take me. And that’s true of even my more traditional narrators. They tell the story. I follow. So it wasn’t significantly different from other journeys, just a little crazier.
Q: The supernatural elements in CRAZY LOVE YOU are part of what makes it unique, and more complex, or ambiguous, than your more traditional ‘horror’ fare. Have you always been interested in ghosts, psychics, and the like? What was it like to write in that mode? What is your own relationship with the supernatural?
A: I have a dark and curious imagination, so the supernatural has been a big source of fascination for me — not just spirits and ghosts, but psychic phenomenon, fortune tellers, tarot cards, anything the flirts with the other side. I have met people who were clearly gifted. And I’ve had some unexplainable experiences — enough so that I’m open to the possibilities. Since my fictional worlds are pretty dark, it didn’t seem like such a big leap to follow Ian down the rabbit hole, especially since it took me a long time to figure out what was really happening to him. I had to follow him, just to figure out if he was crazy, addicted, or really experiencing something – beyond. The natural and supernatural exist side-by-side, a very thin veil between them. CRAZY LOVE YOU is not the first time, I’ve pushed the veil back, but I did go deeper than I have before.
Q: One of the most compelling parts about Ian’s character is his dedication to his work – what are the similarities (if any!) between Ian’s perspective on his work and your own? What was it like to write from the perspective of someone so wrapped up in their own art, so different from your own?
A: I actually don’t think his art is very different from my own. He’s a storyteller, just like me. There’s a visual component to his art, but my fascination with my subjects is no less total. The major difference between Ian and me, is that I am grounded in the real world in a way that he is not – and frankly doesn’t want to be. I have a family and a home and responsibilities that keep from disappearing completely onto the page. When the book begins, he doesn’t have any of that. He is young and single, wild, partying, troubled by a traumatic past. He is using drugs and his work, to keep his demons at bay. He doesn’t have anything in the real world to keep him rooted, until he meets Megan. And, of course, that’s when all the trouble begins –when he has to choose.
As a young and unhappy kid, Ian disappeared into the world of comic books – a brightly colored, exciting, easy-to-understand world where things were just better. I think that a lot of creative people find a home in their art at a very young age. It was definitely true for me – first I disappeared into books, then into my own writing. The world doesn’t always embrace the sensitive and more creative among us, but the page is wide open, waiting for us to fill it with our art – whether that’s poetry, or fiction, or paints and pastels. I don’t think there’s an artist alive who doesn’t disappear into the world he creates, and who often prefers it to the real one. I relate to him more than I don’t.
Q: Fate, or the perception of it, plays a big role in the lives of the characters in CRAZY LOVE YOU. Ian in particular meditates frequently on the inevitable aspects of his life, and wonders if it’s truly possible for people to change. Do you believe in fate? Do you think that people ever really change, or that it’s possible to change someone else?
A: I do believe it’s possible to change yourself, and nearly impossible to change anyone else. Our lives are a complicated helix of fate and free will, nature and nurture. Meaning that we don’t choose our genetics, or the things that happen to us, but that sometimes we can find the strength to take the wheel of our lives and start to navigate the terrain before us. When we marshal our resources, we have more power than we think we do over our circumstances. All through CRAZY LOVE YOU, I was rooting for Ian, hoping that something would motivate him to pull out of his downward spiral. But I also knew that the choice was his and his alone. We can’t save anyone from his own dark appetites and desires. The choice to change is a deeply personal one.
Q: Can you give us any hints about what you’re working on next? Are you planning more books that take place in The Hollows?
A: I never talk about my next project, because it drains all the energy. But I will stay I’m done with The Hollows. Or, rather, it’s not done with me!