Given that ultimately there has been such a convergence about this book, why was it dead on arrival? It’s fascinating — talk about vicissitude! With The Keep, you could tell right away. It sold very early and fast, and I could feel that. You would walk into the store and say, “I’m here to sign The Keep,” and they would say, “I just sold one of those.” No one would say that about Goon Squad. They’d say, “Oh, what is it?”
IS IT TRUE THAT IT’S GOING TO BE A HBO SERIES? It has been optioned by HBO, so there is a long run of question marks between that and an actual series. That is the plan and let’s hope it comes true, that would be amazing.
WOULD YOU BE INVOLVED? I am a so-called “consultant,” which I think means I have very few skills to bring to the party, but they want me vaguely involved. So far the only thing I’ve really done — and this was actually pretty satisfying — was shared some of the plot lines that didn’t work out for Goon Squad, because I had a number of chapters that failed, people that I wanted to visit and areas I was curious about that I couldn’t make live on the page.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT HAVING YOUR WORK TRANSLATED TO SCREEN? My first novel [The Invisible Circus] became a movie, and it’s strange for the writer to see that translation. You have to be willing to honor the building of a different vision on top of your own and say, “It’s a separate endeavor, and I’m happy to have inspired it.” In a sense, with a series, it’s a really big leap. Let’s say lightning strikes and a season is produced of Goon Squad. Well, if the series continues, obviously they are going to have to move beyond the confines of what I’ve come up with because that’s going to hold them for a season, if that. Then they are off on their own and I just have to give them my blessing and turn on the TV to see what they’ve come up with.
DO YOUR CHARACTERS LIVE IN YOUR MIND? WOULD IT BE POSSIBLE THAT THEY WOULD SPIN OFF AND HAVE YOUR CHARACTER DO SOMETHING THE ONES IN YOUR MIND WOULD NEVER DO? I think that would be the inevitability of it if it really succeeds. I mean, it all seems a little pie in the sky. If anyone can do a good job, it’s HBO. I already feel with Goon Squad that it’s taken on a life of its own that feels a little separate from me. This would just be a further example of that.
ARE THERE QUESTIONS YOU FIND YOURSELF SETTING OUT TO ANSWER WITH THESE BOOKS, OR ARE IDEAS JUST SORT OF COMING TO YOU AND THE QUESTIONS COME AS THE BOOK UNFOLDS? Often, my entry point is just a time and a place. In order to feel the book is even worth pursuing, I need to feel like it’s reaching towards some interesting questions.
With Goon Squad, I was very inspired by Proust. I guess my question was, “How can I write a contemporary book that suggests the shock of time passing, positive and negative?” Just measuring change over time. I wanted a book that suggested the sweep of time and the radical changes that it brings, but in a very compact form.