I’m always surprised when people ask me whether I avoid reading other books—or even avoid art altogether!?—while I’m writing. I do the exact opposite: while drafting, I’m hypersuggestible, and consume art in absurd quantities and combinations. I let that mix with whatever feels most resonant in my personal life. Out comes new art.

I love that so many critics comment that The Girl in the Road is unlike anything they’ve encountered before, because to me, it’s so clearly a patchwork of direct influence. Meena’s extended inner monologues on the Trail are a direct imitation of the chapter My Expedition from Norman Rush’s Mating. The overall spiral structure, of The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. The theme of matrilineal violence, of Toni Morrison’s Beloved. The vibe (for lack of a better term) comes from the music of Meshell Ndegeocello and Angelique Kidjo. And what I was processing in my heart, during those years: The trauma of mother loss. The fear of abandonment. The temptation toward violence. The seduction of attachment. The beauty and ugliness of sex.

So. Art comes from the combination thereof? The kneading and blending? In a hyper-suggestible state, everything I read or see is somehow exactly what I need—an answer to a question I had, or didn’t even know I had.

The ingredients of Novel #2 so far are: All my morning pages from Belize. Mozart’s symphonies, No. 35-41. “Cheater’s Prayer” by Chris Martin. Lars von Trier’s Dogville. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. The Twelve Dancing Princesses illustrated by Errol Le Cain. The Chronicle of the Ancient Maya Kings and Queens by Martin and Gruber. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeline L’Engle. Mariette in Ecstasy by Ron Hansen.

And what I’m processing in my personal life now?…The imminent sense of time running out. The longing for the other world. The thinness of reality. The concept of geo-vocation. The fear of death. The love of sex.

The grass being greener, always, elsewhere.

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