Pageonelit.com: You are from the South but
you don't live in the South anymore.What does the South mean
to you from a writer/literary perspective and why?
Mark Childress: The South is a place
where, at least through the time of my childhood, the front porch
was a primary location for the exchange of stories. Down South,
we don't say "I had a flat tire on the way home today,"
you say, "let me tell you what happened to me today!"
In other words, we don't necessarily tell more stories than anyone else,
but we usually put things in a narrative form. It's just a habit,
I think, handed down from generation to generation. Also -- the
South is the only part of the country that ever lost a war, ever
had a war fought on our own soil. And that continues to mark
us, down to this day. Perhaps it provokes a need to explain ourselves.
Pageonelit.com: How did you land in Costa
Rica? Do you think you will return to the US one day or are you
gone for good?
Mark Childress: Like most of the
expats who've landed here, I never meant for it to happen. But
the first time I stepped off the plane in San Jose, I felt like
I was at home. It's a perfect
place for a writer -- inexpensive to live, beautiful, great climate,
and lots of interesting people floating around. But of course
I'm an American -- a gringo -- and I would never say I'll never
go home again.
Pageonelit.com: When asked what book
you wished you could have written, you said, `To Kill a Mockingbird.'
Could you tell us what it is you loved about this book and why
you chose this one book out of so many classics?
Mark Childress: First off, it's the first
"adult" book I ever read as a child, and it
was set in the town where I was born, so I felt a very powerful
connection to it from the time I sat down with it. "TKAM"
seems to speak to the generations. It has that feeling of a classic
that will be read and revered a century for now -- how many other
"modern" novels can make the same claim? And I certainly
wouldn't mind writing a book that inspires generation after generation
of rumors, the way Miss Lee's book has.
Pageonelit.com: Tell us about your novel
GONE FOR GOOD and the origin of the story. Was this an
easy or difficult book to write and why?
Mark Childress: Gone for Good is
the story of a folk-rock star at a certain time and place --
the USA, the 70s -- who has gotten lost inside his success. One
night, quite by accident, he strays way off course and finds
himself in a mysterious, timeless place where all the rules of
celebrity and civilization have turned upside down. The place
where "Superman" Willis lands is not unlike Manuel
Antonio, Costa Rica, where I live -- so I suppose you could say
the place was the inspiration. All novels, to me, are incredibly
difficult to write, which is I guess why they're worth writing.
I don't find that one is easier, one harder, etc.
Pageonelit.com: When developing characters
for your novels, do you make them up from scratch or from the
folks you know or have known? Are any of the characters in GONE
FOR GOOD modeled after anyone you know or have known?
Mark Childress: I don't think you ever make
up a character completely from scratch. As a human being, all
you have to work with is the world around you, the people you
know. Many times a character will be composed
of bits and pieces of three or four personalities I've known,
all mixed together. I would say that a few of the "natives"
in "Gone for Good" are pretty directly inspired by
people here in Manuel Antonio, but the names have been changed
to protect .... myself.
Pageonelit.com: If you were not a writer,
what would you be doing for a living?"
Mark Childress: "I can't imagine. Teaching
kindergarten, maybe? Producing little-known independent films?
Luckily I've never had to seriously consider that question. Writing
is my first love, always."
Pageonelit.com: What advice can you offer
future novelists who want to consistently write 400 page novels?"
Mark Childress: First off, read everything
you can get your hands on. Then write as many words a day as
you can stand to write. Once you're into a novel, try not to
think of the hugeness of the task you've set yourself. It helps
me to think, "okay, today I'm going to write this scene
-- just one scene, that's all, and that's not so hard."
Sometimes it's better to forget the forest and concentrate on