In the Distance takes place during the second half of the nineteenth century in what was known, at the time, as the unorganized territories—vast expanses not yet part of the Union. To achieve a reality effect, more than westerns, I read travel narratives and essays by naturalists. I steered away from archaisms, colloquialisms, and technical terms, knowing that fetishizing certain words would make the narrator sound like a tourist or an anthropologist. In fact, I did not want the novel to feel researched at all. My main goal was to be inconspicuously accurate. Continue reading
Category Archives: Great Artists Steal
In writing #gods, probably my most important research material (loosely defined), given that most of the book is set in Harlem and Washington Heights (in upper Manhattan), was the neighborhood where I’ve lived for the past twenty years. I specifically live east of Broadway in the lower 160s, just north and west of an area traditionally known as Sugar Hill, which is famous for its role in the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s as the home of African-American artists and writers including Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington, and many others. Today, the neighborhood remains (demographically speaking) nonwhite, which I mention because, as a white person, I think it’s important to have an understanding of what it means (to some small extent) to be a minority in our country, and living in a nonwhite neighborhood, along with being gay, has I hope given me some perspective—or at least sensitivity—that I tried to incorporate into the book.
While writing the recent history of the Egyptian revolution I had to rely on several different types of material—some to bolster my own memory and imagination, some to be able to see out and beyond the immediate place and time (Cairo, 2011-2015) I was working within. Thinking back over it now, these were some of the key texts that shaped how The City Always Wins was constructed. Continue reading
My novel, The Last Neanderthal, imagines a year in the life of a young, female Neanderthal who is among the last of her kind. A parallel modern story is about a pregnant archaeologist named Rose, who finds two skeletons buried in an embrace—one a Neanderthal and the other a modern human.
I wanted to write a story about Neanderthals that was rooted in the fairly recent finding that people of European and Asian descent have between 1-4% Neanderthal DNA. To make the story plausible, I did a lot of research. Here are some of my sources. Continue reading
My novel D’Arc is the third book in the War With No Name series, which tells of a global conflict between humans and sentient animals. Amid the chaos, a cat named Mort(e) searches for his lost love—a dog named Sheba. Along with its apocalyptic themes, the book discusses the failures of political systems, the power of superstition, and the tribal impulse that drives all species. Below are some of the books that helped to inspire and inform D’Arc, separated by theme.
THE END OF THE WORLD
The War With No Name series is firmly set within the postapocalyptic genre. I’m drawn to these kinds of stories not only because of the Mad Max movies I grew up with, but because of the sense of upheaval, the reset, that comes with them. With a clean slate, people have the opportunity to start anew or to recreate the world of the past. But try as they might, they cannot avoid repeating the same mistakes that unraveled the former world.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
If you haven’t been browbeaten into reading this book yet, allow me to join in the bullying. Atwood’s novel captures the frustration and the stunned silence that would accompany a complete overhaul of society. The protagonist Offred has no choice but to adapt, and her ability to do so surprises her. This book was so influential for me that I used this line as the epigraph for the first book. “God is love, they once said, but we reversed that…” And really, that sums everything up. Continue reading