Let's talk about twins for a second. Vina Apsara is the surviving sibling of a dead baby twin, as was Elvis. Is this a coincidence?
No, not at all. I think where it comes from in my writing, all this business with twins, is that I've always been very conscious of the choices that I didn't make in my life. That's to say, when I left university at the age of 21 I decided that I would make a life in the West and not back in the East. And I've always wondered about what would have happened if I'd gone down the other road. So I've always had this strong sense of the path not traveled, the road not taken, and of that shadow self, of the person that I might have been but chose not to become. And that kind of doubling and splitting in myself is the reason why it keeps happening in my books and is the reason why, in this novel, the character has a shadow self running down the corridors of his mind. But I think this time I may have done it. I may have pushed it to the limit with two sets of twins and, indeed, a twin world, an entirely parallel world as well as the real world. So I think maybe that's enough twins.
Apsara becomes the inspiration for a posthumous cult. This reminds me of Princess Diana.
Well, in a way it is a coincidence, in that I'd actually devised the book and, indeed, written an earlier version of what happens after Vina's death before Princess Diana's accident. It was obviously essential to the idea of the book that Vina dies -- indeed, she dies in the first sentence, and by this time she's one of the most popular singers in the world. That she would be much mourned was obviously always a part of the design, but then the real-life event happened, which was on a scale so much greater than anything I'd envisaged. It shocked me because it seemed as if it jumped off my pages into the real world. It made me think again about what I'd written and actually rewrite it on a bigger scale, and with a dimension to it that it certainly couldn't have had without that real-life occurrence. So yes, in the end the book is affected by what happened, both what happened to Princess Diana and what happened after her death. But it is one of the most bizarre things about writing this book, that I'd actually already written it before it happened.
Well, I suppose no more bizarre than our fighting in the name of ethnic Albanians after the movie Wag the Dog.
Yeah, this is true. Well, Wag the Dog does seem to have become the text of our times.
There's a religious aspect to celebrity culture. Was that part of its imaginative appeal for you?
You don't actually worship the celebrities, you just watch them and obsess about them.