Charlene Brusso did a terrific Q&A with Caitlín R. Kiernan for this week’s PW. Here are the Qs and As we couldn’t fit into the magazine:
CB: Your writing has been compared to work by H.P. Lovecraft, as well as Shirley Jackson. Are you comfortable with those comparisons?
CRK: Every author, whether he or she will admit it or not, their ability to write is the sum total of their life experiences and everything they’ve ever read. Everything. It all goes into the pot, consciously or unconsciously. And so I have this long list of authors who made me the author I am, some more than others. This is just reviewers engaging in literary archeology, finding my roots. In the case of Shirley Jackson, I find it especially flattering, as I can think of no writer in whose footsteps I’d rather follow.
CB: George Saltonstall is fictional, but the details of his life, his paintings, and the dark stories behind them, all feel terribly real. Is Saltonstall based on any historic figure (or figures)?
CRK: Phillip George Saltonstall is an amalgamation of a lot of painters, and a little bit of Poe thrown in, as well. Mostly, I needed him to feel real. There’s a wonderful painter, Michael Zulli, who helped me do this. He actually painted “The Drowning Girl,” and became Saltonstall. He dressed as Saltonstall would have, and we did photos of him in period dress that were then Photoshopped, and all this made Saltonstall so real to me. There was no stranger sensation than holding the painting I’d imagined in my hands, seeing it as a genuine artifact.
CB: What about Eva Canning, the mysterious femme fatale at the center of Imp’s story?
CRK: Eva Canning is likely far too complex to explain here. She’s part of Imp’s haunting. She’s a deadly meme, and she’s also simply another broken person, one who is manipulative, and lost, and… I won’t say too much for fear of giving this or that away. I will say that, in many ways, she’s a nod to Peter Straub’s Ghost Story (with his blessings) and its multi-faced antagonist. It’s like the Kelly Link epigraph at the beginning of the book: “Stories shift their shape.” In fact, that sentence sort of sums up the novel. Stories shift their shape.
If you’re a PW subscriber, check out the rest of the interview here.