Today's guest is multi-talented Claudia Brevis, dramatist, composer, novelist and enthusiastic New Yorker. Today she joins us to discuss her acclaimed post-apocalyptic novel A Gazillion Little Bits set in New York in 2256. (Personally, I don't think we'll last that long).
MJN: I understand you are a lucky native of NYC. The city makes an excellent setting for a post-apocalyptic novel. It's so diverse and liberal, and it lends itself as a likely epicenter of a major disaster (as the events 9/11 have shown). How did it feel making NYC, the city, I assume, you love, the setting of your gritty novel? Do you ever have nightmares about waking up and seeing what your protagonist saw?
CB: Thanks, MJ! I've lived in NYC for most of my life and am very passionate about this place! There's always something new to find-- a building, a park, a street-- interesting to research and exciting to explore. When we drive around town my head is usually out the window, looking up at cornices, around at alleyways, back at street corners, and in fact, it was during one such drive that A Gazillion Little Bits showed up in my brain. I began to see in my beloved city images of change that I came to understand belonged to a distant future! So, in a sense, the book chose its own locale. Interestingly, or maybe oddly, exploring this future world was somewhat comforting. There is the sense that this city always changes but it will always be here.
MJN: There are so many theories regarding to when the world will end and in which manner. Some authors reveal the causes of the apocalypse, while others prefer to stay ambiguous. I keep thinking of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. You can sort of detract that the culprit is a cataclysmic volcano.
CB: I tried to focus on the aftermath, but I thought deeply about how a world could end up as I've written. I used history as a guideline to some extent and took into consideration the spiraling effects that natural disasters would create. So although it might be major earthquakes, tsunamis and other extreme planetary changes that began the descent in my novel, it was also disease, fall of government, disruption and dissolution of society as a result of these multiple, sudden disasters. As a genealogist and researcher I know that information is lost very quickly between generations, and it was easy for me to imagine that 200 years in the future my characters wouldn't know what had happened to create the world they lived in. Most of the story is told through the viewpoints of these future characters, so the reader's knowledge is limited to the characters' knowledge! I did try to leave enough hints that the reader could more or less figure out what had happened.
MJN: Your writing style is breathtakingly vivid. I was immediately hooked after reading the first few pages of A Gazillion Little Bits. Can you name any authors, Dystopian or mainstream, who influenced your style?
CB: Thanks so much! I can't think of any authors in particular that influenced my style, but I did spend a couple of years working out other stories in screenplay format, and I think that visual approach informed my writing. Also, because I explored this novel through the senses of my characters, I had to rely on what they were seeing and feeling and touching and smelling to know myself what was going on and where I was! :)
MJN: I'm not surprised to hear that you are also a playwright and a composer. I live 40 minutes away from New York, and, schedule-permitting, I can to into the city to see shows. Some of the most interesting shows are seen off-off Broadway. I need your honest opinion. Do you think that New York is a promising destination for aspiring authors and actors, or do you think that young talent should work on becoming #1 in their respective home town before taking it to the next step?
CB: Ahh, well, this is a great time to be able to create wherever you are...and with telecommuting and all the great tools for writing and creation, I don't believe you need to be in NYC to write and to write successfully. It's not easy to get something new up theatrically in NY. Many cities have theater festivals, contests, schools, camps, communities and what have you....so as a playwright, if you aren't here, I don't think it’s your first stop. It's not quite the same for actors -- your work is going to be here, or in LA or maybe Chicago. Certainly your major casting opportunities are here. I think young talent should take advantage of home town opportunities but get to NYC or LA as soon as they can! :)
MJN: It appears that your husband shares many of your interests. I consider myself blessed that my husband and I also have a lot in common. That's how we met, in fact. So I'm always delighted to hear about other Bohemian artsy power couples. The joke is that New York is a great place to have your heart broken - but if you're lucky, you can meet the love of your life.
CB: I met my husband when I was 19, and I met him in a theater! I worked at the bar at the Uris Theater (now the Gershwin) during college. My husband's uncle ran the concession there and he worked there occasionally, too! We've been together a thousand years and work on many projects together. I feel very blessed and lucky and grateful for the life we have. He's an amazing musician and musical director, and one of the funniest people I know! I couldn't have dreamed up a better life. So thankful for him and my talented sons!