Phone Message Transcript: April 5, 1999
[appearing on Anne's fan phone line]
"To the Internet and the Phone Line
April 5, 1999: Easter Monday
Your answers to the question - - What have I accomplished in my novels? - - were very interesting, and varied. Some people mentioned the escape factor; others talked about the subjects of music and art in my work; some talked about my treatment of gothic themes. Some talked about good and evil. It was all food for thought, and I loved it.
Michael in San Diego asked me: Why do I write? Michael, that is one of the most difficult questions facing an author, and I wonder--after twenty years of being a published writer--if the answer doesn't vary from day to day. I want to be a writer. It's what I do best, and it's what I want to do; it's a matter of choice and will more than anything else. I believe in the end product, the novel that might mean many things to many people, and the pain of creating it is worth the price.
Writing for me has always been a vocation and never a truly easy one. When it's going well, when plots are spinning and the deeper meanings of my work are accessible to me, it's as exhilarating as a physical sport. When it's not easy - - when the plots are distant, and the deeper meanings won't reveal themselves - - it takes an enormous act of faith. Sometimes, the only way to complete a project is to push through in a dry heat, without pleasure or satisfaction, simply focusing mentally on what I remember of my own goals.
Of late, since I went into the diabetic coma, I have had a dark time with my writing. It's harder than ever. Maybe the truth is that, though I can do it, I can't enjoy it right now. When that happens, I carry on, trusting in the intellect only because the emotions simply will not help. The intellect must judge the production because the emotions can not give a clue as to what has been accomplished.
I've written books in many different frames of mind. TALE OF THE BODY THIEF was written in a dark depression, every word coming with difficulty. THE WITCHING HOUR was written in a great energetic and effortless high. INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE was written in depression. THE MUMMY was crafted in a variety of states of mind. I do not feel, after having written twenty books, that anyone else can really tell from the book that it came forth out of depression or a high, but perhaps I'm wrong.
The main thing for a writer like me is to keep going, to keep creating in each novel a window to my own soul during a certain period of time, to overcome discouragement by any means available. If I listened to my negative voices, I would never have written anything.
In my humble opinion, two of the best books I ever wrote were MEMNOCH THE DEVIL and VIOLIN. But what do I know?
Fans of THE SOPRANOS, as you all know, the series ended last night, and true to form, it was a complex ending, with no simple or easy resolutions. I was most astonished by what Tony's wife, Carmilla said to the priest, which seemed so right on about him, and which made Carmilla a deeper character that she already is. What do you guys think? Of course the entire question of Tony's mother wanting him dead, of her having actually fostered the idea of a hit on Tony - - that is all really deep water. Whatever, I highly recommend this show. It will go into re-runs on HBO in June, and there will obviously be another season. The show will be a classic.
How many of you saw the film, GREAT EXPECTATIONS, with Ethan Hawke, Gwyneth Palthrow, Ann Bancroft, and Robert de Niro? This was a modern version of Dickens' classic novel about Pip, Miss Havisham, and Estella. I found it deliciously interesting. The performances were excellent, and the feel of the whole piece was otherworldly and beautifully grim. I recommend it, if you didn't catch it on HBO last night. Of course as lots of my readers know, I love the original GREAT EXPECTATIONS. It was Michael's favorite novel in THE WITCHING HOUR. I read parts of this book every few months. I've probably learned more from Dickens' GREAT EXPECTATIONS, than from any novel I've ever read.
Speaking of authors who influenced me, how many of you have read Carson McCullers? Her novels, THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER and THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING were huge influences on me and I still learn from them. I don't hear much about her now. Is she alive for you?
Please keep giving me your responses to VITTORIO.
I have one last bit of news. My chief of staff here, Ross Tafaro is producing a graphic novel of THE TALE OF THE BODY THIEF in twelve issues. The work is already well underway. I'm thrilled to see this happening. I believe so totally in the graphic novel as an art form, and though I was disappointed in some of the versions of my work done in the past, I am overjoyed that a new approach is being used. Ross is extremely excited about this venture and wants to make this new comic book version better than wonderful. I don't know precisely when the first issue will ship, but it won't be too long. I'll have more info about it later on.
That's it for now. Let's pray for the people in Kosovo, for our three captive soldiers there, and for Mr. Clinton who has extremely difficult decisions to make."