Tell us how “The Street of the Green Elephant” came about.
“The Street of the Green Elephant” actually came about from another story I was working on in which a brother and sister flee from a city under siege. The story was told from the point of view of the brother, but I kept running into narrative walls writing it. One of the reasons for this, I think, is because Auw-da — the sister — kept stealing every scene. It became clear that she wanted to tell this story. So she did. Of course, the story became something different in Auw-da’s telling, but such is the nature of stories.
You traveled to Thailand last year; has this had an impact on your writing yet? If so, in what way?
You know, it’s probably a cliche to say I fell in love with Thailand, but I don’t care: I fell in love with Thailand. I don’t know that I consciously notice its impact in my writing – instead, I notice it in my daily life because I’m learning to read, write, and speak Thai – but going over some of the stories I’ve written in 2013, I can see its influence pretty clearly. A lot of my earlier stories were set in pseudo-European, American Midwest, or desert-like locales, but now many of them have changed to more tropical climes or are set specifically in Bangkok; I may or may not be working on a novel that shares similarities to current Thai politics; and I think reading Thai folktales is allowing me, bit by bit, to abandon any dependence I still have on traditional Western storytelling. I don’t know if it’s made a better writer, but it’s made a different one. That’s something, at least.
What’s the best book you’ve read lately?
There are four. And one more. From 2013, I really loved A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent by Mari Brennan, A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and, if it isn’t kissing too much editorial butt here, I’ve been having a blast with Rings of Anubis: Gold & Glass by E. Catherine Tobler. I will also always recommend everyone read The Golden Age by Michal Ajvaz, translated by Andrew Oakland.
What’s in your iTunes/Spotify/8-track lately?
This year I fell in love with Lorde, Beyonce, Savages, and listened the hell out of the new My Bloody Valentine.
What’s your favorite Ray Bradbury book/story?
It is impossible to answer this question! Instead, I will tell you my favorite opening sentence of any book ever and, as it so happens, it belongs to Mr. Bradbury: “It was a pleasure to burn.”