Q&A with Caroline kepnes

Last week I reviewed the brilliantly disturbing You and I was left compelled to find out more. Through the wonders of twitter I contacted Caroline to see if she would mind answering some questions and here are her answers.

1.first tell me about you ? interests and dislikes?

I interviewed Parker Posey for my college paper. (She is so talented and I am forever in awe of Waiting for Guffman.) Anyhow, she said something so smart that stayed with me, that if I asked her the same questions tomorrow, she would say something else, and she would be telling the truth. I relate to that so much. What’s on my mind right now: I love a good spicy chicken sandwich. I feel like Dirty Dancing should be on TV every Sunday. I love movies with prominent music. Boogie Nights, ah. I am passionate about Cape Cod and LA, my homes, my friends, family, the beaches (prefer Atlantic over Pacific, hands down). I feel blessed to have such incredible friends and family. This was something defining about Joe for me, that he had absentee parents, no close friends. I liked writing about someone who felt closer to a character in a movie than most people in his immediate world. Finally, I am horribly stubborn, but I am also wonderfully stubborn.

2.are you a big reader?if so have you always been ?

yes. I was so envious of my older brother because he could read. I was so determined and excited to join the reading world. My first was Dr. Seuss’ Hop on Pop. And later, Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret? Reading is so calming and riling at once, you know? That’s the magic of it. If I’m upset about something and I pick up a book, it’s like aah. And yet, there’s nothing like that heart attack you get from a novel, whether you’re reading slow or fast, whether it’s a page turner or a slow burner. I love to mix it up. I read song lyrics a lot too.And news, I love local news. Anywhere I go, I want a newspaper.

3.what authors do you enjoy ?

Charles Bukowski, Charles Dickens, Truman Capote, Paula Fox, Jonathan Franzen, Stephen King, Toni Morrison, Lucinda Rosenfeld. And I’ve been rereading Ann Petry. The Street was a powerful teleport to Harlem in the 1940s. That book made me want to write. The ending is just one of my favorite chunks of writing in the world. And I love dialogue in film as well. Quentin Tarantino, Woody Allen and Nora Ephron are three screenwriters who I admire. Death Proof! Deconstructing Harry! You’ve Got Mail! That would be a dream triple-billing in a movie theater to me

4.where did you get your inspiration for you ?

My friend’s husband once asked what was worse, losing someone suddenly or losing someone after a long illness. And my friend and I were like, neither. There are so many different kinds of hell! And for me, the worst hell, by far, the one you have to be really aware of when you’re dealing with loss, it’s the hell of having no one to start. We open with Joe very lonely, adjusted to hell in a way. I loved that he was deriving all his human contact from this job, where there are clear boundaries. The first line is so important to me. I love doors. And I love the tragedy implied by him seeing her walk in. We know that anyone who walks into a store is going to leave. That’s how it works. Joe, he’s so lonely, he wants someone to come in and just stay and be his life. He’s so doomed! And that inspires me, to challenge that doom. Also, I read Lolita while working at a bookstore several years ago. But I never locked anyone in the basement.

5.where did Joe come from ?

I was thinking about this a few days ago and I dug up an email from the day I started Joe’s voice. I was in a coffee shop in West Hollywood looking outside, annoyed by two girls who were rolling their eyes over a man who was clearly disheveled, harmless, probably homeless. And there was this shiny loud guy doing that performance talking where he was looking around to see if he had an audience. I was in a bad mood. I was like, I hate all of you. And then I took my rage back to the obsessive story I was trying to tell. Thinking of him as someone who would share a lot of my pet peeves, this was exciting. I love the part of him that gets annoyed with rude people and loves Hannah and Her Sisters. Alas, he gets too annoyed and misreads a lot of Hannah. That’s life for you.

 6.strangly I felt sympathy and warmth towards him ,was that your goal and how did you manage that?
Oh yes. I felt sympathy constantly, at every stage, so it’s wonderful to hear that that comes through to you. I can’t write if I don’t feel warmth. I mean, I can start out from a negative place–those irritating girls at the coffee shop–but for me, writing is cathartic because the point is that you start writing, and suddenly, you have these characters, you know why they are projecting. Everybody has issues. And for me always being Joe’s head, I am relating his logic, why he’s doing why he’s doing what he’s doing. I never thought of him as a hateful person. I always would go back to his 9/11 experience, how it symbolizes his relationship to society. He can’t seem to be a part of things. He is always on the outside looking in, even when he is in a cage.
7 how on earth did you manage to portray such a dark disturbed atmosphere through words .?
I hope I learned a lot from In Cold Blood and American Psycho and The Shining and Misery. And most recently, I was blown away and egged on by Stwart O’Nan’s novel, Emily, Alone. In that book, you are literally in this widow’s head. You can smell her kitchen, see her basement. That book, that book! It was the last book I read before I wrote You. It captivated me because it was an out-of-body escape into another person’s consciousness. I was inspired to see if I could pull that off in my own way. Emily is nothing like Joe–she doesn’t murder anyone, she has a pet–but she is overwhelmed by her very active internal life. She struggles with her thoughts. My favorite atmospheres are the ones inside our minds. I also learned a lot from Mike White’s brilliant series Enlightened. Watching that show was a lot like reading Emily Alone.
8.desribe a writing day and environment ?
Every day I wake up and have this inane debate over where to get coffee, whether I will drive or walk, whether I will bring my computer or leave it at home. It’s the first procrastination of the day, but it’s a fun one, a dire one. I mean, who can do anything without coffee? At home. I like the TV on. It’s a good barometer of my focus. I love when it hits me I am so into what I’m writing that some show I don’t like is on TV and I didn’t realize it.
9. through writing you have you changed opinion on real life stalkers ?
I didn’t really come into this book with an opinion. I have always been alarmed and petrified by home invasion and stalking. It was exciting to write, to try and understand what might compel someone to do these things, how that would feel, to wake up every day and want to read someone’s private email, someone you love. Also, I am very interested in the way we live now, on top of each other in so many dimensions. The technology that allows us to know when someone “read” a text is perverse to me. I think stalking feels culturally relevant because it’s almost encouraged in our modern climate. First comes following, then comes friending etc. That said there is nothing new about obsession, murder. People sometimes do terrible things, always have, always will. I started writing about obsessive, misfit characters a long time ago.
10.is book 2 in the process ? do you have any info on it?
Yes. I don’t want to say anything about it while I’m in the middle of it, but it feels like a living thing. A living thing that I will go back to working on in just a few minutes. I hope.
 A big thank you to Caroline for being on my blog today and if you are intrigued about You heres my review https://charlenejess.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/book-review-you-by-caroline-kepnes/
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