Sarah Langan: „It’s all an act of faith”

Articol publicat in:English | Aparut in:Nr. 6 ( noiembrie, 2010 )

Mircea PRICĂJAN talks to Sarah LANGAN

Sarah LANGAN received her MFA in fiction writing from Columbia University, where she studied with Michael Cunningham, Nicholas Christopher, Helen Schulman, Susan Kennedy, and Maureen Howard, among others. Her fist novel The Keeper (2006) was an immediate success and has been acclaimed by such high-esteemed authors as Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell, and Jack Ketchum. Shortly after that followed The Missing (titled Virus in UK), which brought her the first Bram Stoker Award. The same award she was given this year, for Audrey’s Door, her third novel, published in 2009 by Harper. She is currently a master’s candidate in environmental medicine at NYU and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Mircea PRICĂJAN: How would you define your work for those who didn’t get the chance to read it yet?

Sarah LANGAN: I write mostly about the horrors of human cruelty, and also about redemption. Each of my novels and stories has a different perspective—THE KEEPER is about a town in economic decline, and a people in moral decline. They’re haunted by their own misbehavior and regrets. VIRUS/THE MISSING’s subject is the excessive consumption of the upper middle class. Their boredom has turned them into monsters. AUDREY’S DOOR is about a woman who is haunted by her past. She represents a generation—my generation—that refuses to take responsibility, and grow up.

M.P.: What sparks your imaginations?

S.L.: The newspaper, particularly the science and human interest sections, is where I get my ideas. Then I apply my own experience and point of view. I love toxicology, which I studied in graduate school. I’m also inspired by good art. A lot of times, what’s popular is also crappy. When it’s something good, like HUNGER GAMES or Roger Waters’ WALL Tour, I’m thrilled. It gives me faith in what I’m trying to do, and hope, too.

M.P.: Writing comes easy to you or is it a long and painful process?

S.L.: It depends or the story and where I am in my personal life. Some days are a slog, some fly by. Some days I think I wrote crap, but reread the next day, and love. It’s all an act of faith.

M.P.: You’ve written three novels so far and two of them won the Bram Stoker Award. What’s the secret?

S.L.: Work. Work. Work. Luck. Luck. Luck. Work harder. Make more luck.

M.P.: How important was for you the fiction writing course you attended at California University?

S.L.: I went to Columbia University, and the fiction master’s degree helped me edit my work. I also learned how to take criticism. Some of it was good. Some of it was bad. It’s important to learn early that everybody has an opinion.

M.P.: How important is for a young writer the help and support of fellow writers?

S.L.: Depends on the writer. Some flourish without a community; others require the structure of an MFA program. I think it you have a strong voice, the community is more useful for connections to the publishing world than criticism. Networking is a big part of the job.

M.P.: Was it hard for you to surpass „the second book test” (said to be the hardest and ultimate test of one writer’s ability to, well, be a writer)?

S.L.: I’d been working on the first book THE KEEPER, for seven years. So I was relieved to write something new. THE MISSING/VIRUS came naturally. I’d finished two books by the time THE KEEPER was released, which was really nice. There were no critical little bugs in my ear, whispering poison, because my work wasn’t out in the world yet.

M.P.: Audrey’s Door is a complex novel, built – as you say in the Preface – „on a rich tradition”. Didn’t you feel constrained by this tradition?

S.L.: No. I think my only mistake was naming those other works, because people like to discover those connections on their own. A lot of horror fans thought I was being egotistical. But you can’t please everybody! The book is good, and that’s what matters.

M.P.: When you write, is it you who drives the plot or the character?

S.L.: The plot and character tend to fight with each other. I referee.

M.P.: When do you feel that a novel or short story you are writing is going the right way?

S.L.: I know when it all rings true, and has a breathlessness to it, like you can’t wait to turn the next page and find out what happens.

M.P.: Who are the writers you look up to?

S.L.: Lots! To name a few: Tom Wolfe, Stephen King, Peter Straub, Patrick McGrath, Joyce Carole Oates, Lorrie Moore, Suzanne Collins, Kevin Brockmeier, Liz Hand, Edith Wharton, Somerset Maugham, Eudora Welty, Doris Lessing, Walter Tevis, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Carson McCullers.

M.P.: Which is the last book that kept you wake until late into the night?

S.L.: MOCKINGJAY, the last book in the HUNGER GAMES trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

M.P.: What have we to look forward to from Sarah Langan?

S.L.: I’ve got a radio play called “Is This Seat Taken?” coming out November 9, at Glass Eye Pix. You can buy it for $2, or buy the whole season for $20. I wrote the episode, and my husband directed and edited. It stars Joe Swanberg, of Mumblecore fame, and Vonia Arslanian.  Other episodes will include famous actors, directors, and writers both inside and out of the genre. Link:

Also out is my first hard science fiction story, “Hindsight” at Lightspeed Magazine. It’s free online, or $3 for the entire, downloadable Halloween issue, which includes stories by Stephen King and Joe Lansdale:

I’m also working on my fourth novel, Empty Houses. Every other book for me is introspective and dark. I’m figuring things out, and these tend to be the ones that upset people, and give them nightmares, but also give them something to think about. Empty Houses is more like The Missing, in that it’s fast paced and joyful. It’s about a struggling family on Long Island, and what happens when a meteor of mysterious origin crashes in their front yard. The final thing I’m working on right now is a screenplay, also set on Long Island. With witches!

M.P.: The last word belongs to you. You may address it to your future Romanian readers.

S.L.: I do my best to deliver entertaining stories that keep readers on the edges of their chairs, but also tell a truth that may not often get expressed, and keep them thinking about the world in different ways long after they’d finished. I’ll keep trying to do that. I hope you’ll start reading.

M.P.: Thank you so much for this interview. Good luck with your future projects.

S.L.: Thank you!

November 2010

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2 comentarii »

  • bibanu said:

    deci apare ceva de langan si in romana?

  • Mircea Pricajan said:

    sper că da, deşi nu ştiu să existe vreo înţelegere cu vreuna dintre editurile noastre…

    NOTĂ: Interviurile cu autorii încă netraduşi la noi nu sunt un semn al iminentei lor intrări pe piaţa noastră de carte. Aceasta este, cel mult, o dorinţă personală. 🙂

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