I’m a bookseller and obsessive reader, and not a journalist. The idea for #10fragenan (10 questions to …) came from Instagram where I took the chance to chat with writers. Beeing very curious about the creative process, and the way ideas come to transform into those stories, we love to read, made me ask and ask and ask … Twice I have done it so far, you’re the third author I’m pestering now. So I’m a little bit nervous, asking you my clumsy questions. Well, never mind, I keep telling myself „nothing ventured, nothing gained“

And, another word before we start: I was, I think about 18, a bookseller trainee when I visited the first author reading. Wanna guess who it was? Some TC Boyle guy reading from „east is east“, „Der Samurai von Savannah“. It was hilarious and I loved it! And I had questions, yes, but I didn’t dare to say a word …

1. “You are a famous writer. What do you think brought you there, pure luck? Your determination, dedication, obsession?”
“I was lucky to find an audience right from the beginning, and that kind of encouragement is invaluable. When locked away in your own world, writing a novel, you are intensely dreaming over the page in a kind of absolute isolation, so having people interested in—even eager for—what you’re doing really helps. In addition, once I discovered what my passion is, I devoted myself to it, without distractions. I only write fiction. That is my life. I am not interested in screenplays or journalism or anything that would interfere with my goal of producing a life’s work.”

2. “You’re living in an outstanding house, built by Frank L. Wright. You even wrote a novel about the architects life with his wives (I loved it, critical, cynical, great!), does every incident of your life have an impact on your writing?”
“Not necessarily. I am not an autobiographical writer, though some stories of mine—Greasy Lake, If the River Was Whiskey, Up Against the Wall—certainly contain autobiographical elements. In the case of The Women, I had been living in this house for some fifteen years before I got around to exploring the life and work of the architect who built it. I wanted to know more about the house I was restoring and maintaining and the genius who created it.”

3. “You have quite a crush for the ‘loser’ type, with a lot of loving humor you let them find their ways. How comes that?”
“Yes, I am most sympathetic to the Cándidos of the world, as well as the punks like Ronnie in Drop City and William Peck Wilson of Talk Talk, but also with strong female characters like Mamah in The Women, Sarah Hovarty Jennings in The Harder They Come and Dana Halter of Talk Talk. The Tubes have a campy song called, White Punks On Dope. I was one of those punks and I suspect that is the reason why I have sympathy for such characters as Ronnie and the three young men of Greasy Lake.”

4. “Outside Looking In („Das Licht“) , Budding Prospects („Grün ist die Hoffnung“) … drugs, are they an important topic to you?” 
“Drugs and alcohol—addiction—are elements in many of my fictions, as you note. In the case of Das Licht, I am exploring the early days of the LSD revolution that gave us the hippies and acid rock, which I examined in Drop City. In this case, I am interested in the kind of illumination LSD can give people, once it disarms the editing brain and allows the wash of sensory impressions to pour over us unabated. See my essay, This Monkey, My Back, for my take on creating art as a kind of addiction.”

5. “You are a great short story writer, too. What comes easier to you, writing novels or stories? Or do you write simultaneously both?”
“Thank you. I am dedicated to short stories every bit as much as I am to the novel. I write them in discrete periods, so that I am just now wrapping up a story period in preparation for the next novel. The first of these stories, I Walk Between The Raindrops, appeared in The New Yorker last summer (July 30) and the second, Asleep At The Wheel, will be published in the February 4 issue of that magazine, with the third coming in the March issue of Esquire.“

6. “Well now, how can I imagine your everiday writers life … do you have a plan? Fixed working hours, a favourite spot where your writing flows best? Does ist flow, or ist it hard work?”
“It is hard work. It is excruciating at times. It give rise to suicidal thoughts. But when it works—when it flows—it is the paramount experience of life. And yes, I work each day from late morning to early (or sometimes late) afternoon, sitting at my desk, with my books and music. I cannot work while on tour—only when I am at home and at peace.”

7. “It was no one less than John Irving, who became your mentor at university. Can you tell us more about that?”
“John was one of three professors I studied with at Iowa—the others were Vance Bourjaily, who had been John’s teacher, and the legendary John Cheever. All three were unfailingly kind and encouraging. I also had a great mentor in the English Department, where I simultaneously studied for my Ph.D.: Frederick P.W. McDowell.”

8. “In The Terraunauts („Die Terranauten“) you gave us an impression of what might be possible in future, it is even now. What do you think, does humankind have a chance? Will planet earth have a chance? With us stupid selfish and reluctant people? Probably I’m expecting a joke now …”
“Sadly, yes: we have arrived at the crisis point. The Terranauts is a reflection on 2000’s A Friend of the Earth, in which I projected to 2026 in order to assess the effects of global warming. It has come much more quickly than anyone thought. I shudder for the future of our species. With 7.3 billion of us, it’s hard to find much optimism for the future—we are now living in the sci-fi movies of the sixties and seventies, none of which projected much of a positive outcome for us.”

9. “Do you believe in god?”
“No. God is quite obviously an invention of our superstitious species. We yearn for meaning, and we must create it where and how we can. I live for nature, for art, for love. I expect to die as I was born—as an animal on a mysterious planet.”

10. “Imagine, you get three wishes granted,
what would it be?”
“My three wishes:
1) Defeat Trump; 2) Defeat Trump; 3) Defeat Trump.”