Q. Where can I write to you? Will you sign my books?
My mailing address is P.O. Box 750151, New Orleans LA 70175, USA. I try to answer mail (eventually), but cannot send out autographed photos. I am happy to sign up to four books at a time for U.S. readers if they include a self-addressed, stamped return mailer (stamps only, please; no meter postage). IF YOU DO NOT INCLUDE POSTAGE, I WILL NOT RETURN YOUR BOOKS. Please do not send packages with any service that will require my signature unless you have arranged this with me prior to sending. I regret that I cannot sign books from overseas without prior arrangement. Also, due to abuse (i.e. seeing them turn up for sale on eBay), I am no longer signing bookplates.
Q. Will you read my unpublished work? I'm looking for a publisher/an agent/your opinion/nothing at all, just wanted to share it with you.
Putting aside the question of time, I (like most professional authors) simply can't accept unpublished work for legal reasons. There are all sorts of wingnuts out there just dying to take someone to court for "stealing their ideas." Of course I understand that you're not looking to do this, but protecting myself legally requires that I not make exceptions. Theoretically, the wingnut could drag me into court, and I'd be on the witness stand, and the wingnut's lawyer could make me testify under oath that I NEVER, EVER read unpublished/unsolicited work ... or even subpoena my computer records to see if I've corresponded with readers like you and looked at their work. So please understand that this is in no way a personal decision. I wish the world wasn't such a lawsuit-happy place, but since it is, we all must cover our asses to a ridiculous degree.
Q. How do you feel about fan fiction based on your work?
OK, I really, really hate this whole subject, but for the record, here's where I stand on fan fiction. I don't especially mind people writing about Steve & Ghost, Trevor & Zach, or the characters from EXQUISITE CORPSE. I'm done with those characters, and if people want more of them, it seems reasonable to allow them to make it themselves as long as they're not profiting from it. Knock yourself out. Have fun.
At this point, I don't want fan fiction published about Rickey, G-man, or the other characters in the Liquor world, and yes, I'm afraid I am willing to back that up legally -- not to be an asshole, but because I plan to continue writing about these characters for a long time to come and there is quite a bit of evidence that allowing fan fiction can weaken an author's copyright (as discussed here). Writing is my only source of income and I just can't risk having that compromised. Honestly, though, it's about more than money or whether I ever even see the stuff -- it's the fact that when someone else writes without permission about characters that are still very much a part of my life, it feels a lot like having someone sleep with my husband, or rather more like having someone sneak up behind him and stick a finger up his butt. They may mean it in a flattering way (because he does have a cute butt), and I may not have to look at it, but that doesn't make me feel a whole lot better, and it's not something I am ever going to get used to.
More than anything else, I simply wish I were not the kind of author who makes people want to write fan fiction about his characters. Ever since I saw that Jughead/Mr. Weatherbee slash piece, though, I'm convinced that people will write the stuff about ANYTHING.
Q. Why do you write about gay characters?
Why doesn't anyone ever ask heterosexual writers why they write about straight characters?
Q. I've just finished my first novel. What advice can you give me about agents and publishers?
I had good luck with reading the WRITERS MARKET, targeting some likely-seeming short story markets, selling some stories, and making a small name for myself that way. I think agents and book editors are more likely to take an interest in your manuscript if you already have some publication credits. And I do recommend trying to get an agent. It's not always easy, but if you get a good one, he will make life immeasurably easier for you. Whether you're a Stephen King fan or not, check out his nonfiction book ON WRITING, which contains the best advice I've ever read about finding an agent and submitting your work.
Q. What do you love so much about New Orleans?
It's my hometown and I love many things about it, but to be honest, I'm not entirely satisfied with the way I have portrayed it in my work so far. I hope I've done a better job in my new novel, LIQUOR, but in my previous work I feel I've been somewhat guilty of perpetuating an incomplete stereotype: Dark, Romantic, Haunted, Lushly Gorgeous New Orleans. That side of the city does exist, but it's a small side and creates an inaccurate picture. I love this city and doubt that I will ever live anywhere else, but it isn't just beautiful and spooky - it will eat you alive and gnaw your bones if you're not careful. I don't mean only the crime, or the poverty, or the filth, or the sadness - though these certainly factor in. There's just something here that a lot of people can't take. They visit, they see the fun parts, they fall in love with it, they think they want to move here, they do move here and leave after a few months because it's driving them insane. There's a way of life here that I call Divine Stupidity, which is the subject of John Kennedy Toole's novel A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES, the best book ever written about New Orleans. Living here is very much like living in the Third World. You have to be tough and you have to learn to laugh at things that would enrage people living in a sane, sensible place.
Q. When will you write a sequel to LOST SOULS/DRAWING BLOOD/EXQUISITE CORPSE?
Never. I'm more interested in writing about new characters and situations than revisiting old ones.
Q. What does the "Z" stand for?
To quote Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, I hate that goddamn question.
Q. Is Missing Mile, NC a real town?
No. If you look at a North Carolina map, Missing Mile would be about where the tiny town of Duncan is. However, Duncan is located in a dry county (no alcohol sales allowed), and Missing Mile is decidedly not dry.
Q. Did the Winona Ryder movie "Lost Souls" have anything to do with your novel?
Q. What's your dream cast for LOST SOULS?
I'm tired of all this pale-faced Goth stuff. Here's my new and genuinely brilliant LOST SOULS dream cast:
Steve: Ice Cube
Ghost: Chris Rock
Zillah: Snoop Dogg
Molochai & Twig: Tray Deee and Goldie Loc (Tha Eastsidaz)
Nothing: Li'l Bow Wow
Ann: Foxy Brown
AAAAAAAND ... ISAAC HAYES AS CHRISTIAN!
I am 100% serious, especially about Snoop.
Q. I plan to visit New Orleans. What should I do/see/eat there?
My New Orleans guide is pretty restaurant-centric, but other than a little birdwatching and basketball-game-going, that is about all I do.
Marisol, near the French Quarter at Frenchmen and Esplanade, is maybe our absolute favorite restaurant in town. The chef is an insane freak with a divine talent. There's no way to classify the food Q. could be anything from Korean to uber-French to German. There's also a list of 50+ cheeses.
Casamento's, on Magazine Street near the corner of Napoleon Avenue, is a pure and divine oyster bar. Some people tell me it has an "attitude," but I've been eating there since I was 3, so I've never experienced this. Prices are cheap. Note that Casamento's closes each year from late May to mid-September.
Other restaurants/eating places I enjoy are (in New Orleans) Adam's BBQ, Addis (Ethiopian), Bennachin (east African), Camellia Grill (burgers & breakfast), Central Grocery (muffulettas), Charlie's Deli (sandwiches Q. try the "Moon"), Charlie's Steak House, Commander's Palace (haute Creole), Crescent City Steak House, Dante's Kitchen (upscale casual Louisiana/fishing camp), Dong Phuong (Vietnamese), Pho Tau Bay (Vietnamese), Dunbar's (soul food), Hansen's Sno-Bliz (snowballs), , Kyoto (sushi), Liuzza's (New Orleans with Italian touches), Napoleon House (better for drinking than for eating), Michael's Mid-City Grill (burgers & fried seafood), Parkway Bakery (po-boys), Parasol's (roast beef po-boys), Restaurant Mandich ("the Galatoire's of the Ninth Ward"), Rio Mar (upscale seafood with a Spanish accent), R&O (seafood/Creole Italian/po-boys), Ruth's Chris Steak House, Sid-Mar's (boiled/fried seafood), Tee Eva's (soul food); (on the West Bank) DiMartino's Muffulettas, La Pupuseria Divino Corazon (Central American), Mosca's (Creole Italian), Taqueria LaMexicana; (in Metairie/Kenner) Laurentino's (Spanish), Royal China (dim sum), Seoul (Korean); (in Chalmette) Rocky & Carlo's (Creole Italian).
It's also fun to visit St. Roch Cemetery on St. Roch Avenue, aimlessly wander the French Quarter, ride the streetcar from Canal Street all the way up to Riverbend, take a swamp tour, sit by the river and eat a muffeletta from Central Grocery on Decatur Street ... in fact, it's hard not to have a fun and interesting time in New Orleans. It's been done, but it's hard. There are people who would tell you that some of these activities Q. the cemetery visit in particular, probably Q. are fraught with peril. Some people consider New Orleans a very dangerous city. It is certainly a poor city, but I don't feel that it is the murderous ghetto it's made out to be. All I can tell you is that I've done these things countless times and no one has ever bothered me. Maybe I'm foolhardy. I know I am averse to living my life in a shell of fear. Be sensible, keep your eyes open, and have fun.
Oh, and a small plug: The Garden District Book Shop, in the Rink shopping center on Prytania Street, has signed copies of most of my books.
If you're interested in museums, there's the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park, and the African-American Cultural Museum in the Treme neighborhood, and the Voodoo Museum on Dumaine Street, and the fabulous Wax Museum on Conti Street (don't miss the Chamber of Horrors), and the Confederate Museum and the D-Day Museum ... yes, there are quite a few museums.
Aubdubon Park in Uptown New Orleans (right off St. Charles Avenue) is very beautiful and great for walking, running, biking, even golf if you're into that. One thing I enjoy there is birdwatching. There's a lagoon with an island where egrets, herons, and ibises nest. If you like birds, other good places to see them are the bayou that runs along Marconi Drive near City Park (great blue herons, egrets, ibises) and the lakefront (brown pelicans, especially in West End Park Q. walk across the footbridge behind the old hurricane-wrecked Bruning's restaurant).
As a special favor to me, please do not wear Mardi Gras beads unless it is Fat Tuesday and/or you have just been to a parade. At any other time, they are just a big garish sign hanging around your neck screaming I'M A DUMBASS TOURIST -- PLEASE ROB ME. I would also greatly appreciate it if you did not patronize Bourbon Street T-shirt shops or buy/wear those stupid-looking jester/Cat in the Hat hats.
These sites may be of help for further city information: