Do you feel like people can ever “own” a tragedy? Was it scary to write a book that so many people have such strong emotional contact with?
I think that all we can do is respond to our world from the most truthful individual place. My stories are not social commentary but personal expression. They are my way to try to understand, process and perhaps internally transform pain through love and art. They certainly don’t try to take on the way so many other people experience something, but perhaps there’s sometimes some overlap.
Early in your career, it felt like your heroines (Weetzie in particular, but also Mab and Barbie, and Violet) are really type-A personalities — in-control, taking the world by the horns and giving it a good shake. In contrast, Ruby and Grace both seem shaken and uncertain, caught offguard by what the world’s dealt them. If somebody forced you to attribute it to something, do you think it’s growing older? The world changing? You changing as a person?
Ruby and Grace have both been faced with strong personal challenges. Ruby was abused by her father and Grace has cancer. Mab and Violet haven’t had those kind of challenges. Even Weetzie, though she lost her dad, didn’t face the same kind of pain (although Barbie does to an extent) So I’m just dealing with how characters respond to situations. It’s funny because I actually perceive Ruby as a much more active heroine than Weetzie–she goes after what she wants and gets it. Grace seems to me to be one of my most brave characters because what she has to face is so immense.
Ultimately I suppose the change you see could reflects the change in the world and in me. I wrote Weetzie almost twenty years ago and since then I’ve gone through a lot in my life. I still believe in the healing power of love and art but I’ve also seen and felt a tremendous amount of pain.
You have a huge online presence, both through fans and on your own. Do you feel at all pressured to tell happy stories, or to rewrite the same stories again?