Recently I reviewed Richard Kadrey’s The Grand Dark for Green Man Review. I enjoyed the book and kept thinking about it, so I had some questions. Richard kindly agreed to a follow-up interview. Here’s his answers to those questions.
Q: What was it about the setting of The Grand Dark that drew you? It feels as though it came first and then the story within it – or was it the other way around?
RK: All of my previous work had been set in real places, primarily Los Angeles and San Francisco. With The Grand Dark, I wanted to build my own world from the ground up. The character of Largo appeared pretty much at the same time as I was creating the city of Lower Proszawa in my mind. I wanted someone somewhat innocent and with very little power to contrast with the weight and complexity of the city. But he had to be fluent in the streets. Largo could have been a crook, but instead I made him a bicycle messenger. Someone at the mercy of the weather, the traffic, and moody cops.
Q: What fears did you have about moving away from Sandman Slim and into different waters?
RK: I was very nervous. Largo was the opposite of my best-known characters, especially James Stark, aka Sandman Slim. Stark is confident and powerful. Largo is just the opposite. His defining characteristic is the constant fear he lives with because of his brutal childhood. But Largo isn’t a wimp. He finds his strength as the book progresses. Stark, and even Coop in my caper novels, were already strong and didn’t need a lot of lessons. People associated me with that kind of character and I got some pushback at first. But now that the book is out, readers seem to be coming around to Largo and the tough time I give him in The Grand Dark.
Q: Some critics have said that speculative fiction, no matter what time period it’s set in, is about the times in which it’s being produced. Do you think that’s true of The Grand Dark, and why or why not?
RK: Trust me, this book wouldn’t have been nearly as dark if I’d written it at a different time and under a different president. We’re seeing the rise of a cruel, fascist ethos around the country. For me, it feels as if we’re hurtling toward some kind of great calamity, which is what’s happening to Lower Proszawa in the book.
Q: Does having written for comics shaped your novel writing process? Do you have a vision for a graphic novel version of The Grand Dark?
RK: I’ve always been a visual writer, so comics were a natural extension for me. Writing both comic and, now, film scripts has helped me break down stories to their basic components and put them back together again, scene by scene.
Q: What’s coming up next for you?
RK: I’m working on a new Sandman Slim novel and I’ve finished up a new film script that I really can’t talk about right now. I also have some comic proposals out. Because I’m also a photographer, probably the strangest thing I’d like to do is a photo tour of burial sites around the world, and then put them together in a book with a story about each place.