What inspired you to write this story?
Unrequited love, the persistence of human suffering, annoyance at myself for making statements like “the persistence of human suffering,” my resolve to continue making such statements anyway, an appreciation for the elegance of Buddhism’s solution to the problem of human suffering (there it is!), a high degree of skepticism about Buddhism’s solution to the problem of human suffering (and again! He just doesn’t know when to quit, does he?), the belief that we will figure out how to avoid death long before we figure out how to be happy, and my impressively hazy understanding of a Chinese classic called The Dream of the Red Chamber.
The voice is extremely fun. When you write humor, how much do you have to work or rework the voice?
At first, the voice was a tad more disparaging of the fates of the mortals (and immortals) whose lives (and afterlives) it was narrating. But my MFA comrades protested this arch quality. And they had a point. There is a difference between humor and outright farce. I like to think I (primarily) write humor, which, to my mind, is a little more human, a little more sympathetic. The voice needed to reflect that more human quality, while also retaining an element of play.
Coffee threads its way through the story. Are you also a fan of Frappuccino, or is there something else you like to drink?
I have it on good authority that the invention of the Frappuccino is, in fact, the teleological purpose of the universe. The real question is: How do we live our lives now that this purpose has been fulfilled? Have we been set adrift, cosmically speaking? Should nihilism prevail? Is everything nothing? Why does my nose itch? Should I stop asking these questions because whatever philosophical point I wanted to make regarding the epistemological impossibility of reaching the truth about such mysteries as why my nose itches has long been eclipsed by readerly annoyance, for there is nothing a reader hates more than when an author breaks the fourth wall and says, directly to them:
Curious minds want to know—now that people will be able to transcend the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, what do you predict for The Great Voice’s next job?
Retirement. The Great Voice has just moved into a senior living community in Boca Raton, where It intends to play bingo and generally not give a damn, for, approximately, forever.
What are you working on next?
My second novel, Away We Go, will be released in February 2016. It’s a young adult dystopian, which is a misleading characterization—the book is more A Separate Peace than The Hunger Games, and not nearly as good as either. If that piques your interest, please check it out. I also have new short stories in the fall 2015 issues of The New Orleans Review and PRISM International.
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