PW: Bullets of Rain is your first novel since 1989. Why the long break?
David Schow: I was never really comfortable with the conceit that novels "must" be so-many-hundred pages, and I spent some of the 1990s working my way back toward long form, with some novelette-length stories in collections. Writing a novella in 1997 encouraged me to stretch again, but it was still a couple more years before I had a notion to tell a story at length.
PW: Do you think readers will find Bullets a different type of novel than your last? How do you think you've developed as a novelist?
DS: In most significant ways, it was like selling a first novel from scratch. It's similar to my first novel in that it's primarily a suspense book, deals with distorted or unreliable perceptions of reality and has more than a smidgen of what a friend of mine calls "gun porn." How have I changed? I think it's tighter and more focused.
PW: Where did the idea for Bullets come from, and how long did it take to write?
DS: The timeline on Bullets is very clear: I started it, literally, from a single page of notes, on December 7, 2000. I finished it in August 2001. Then I had to pound the pavement for a literary agent, which absorbed another nine months or so. But when Trident Media Group took it on, they sold it in one week. And here we are, a year after that, finally coming out.
PW: Do you see the new novel as consistent with your previous work, or breaking new ground?
DS: The honest answer, I hope, is "both." I can only explore an idea as seen through my own lens; on the other hand, if you read my short fiction, the theme of the premise won't seem so alien. Potboiler fiction that merely stacks bricks of plot into a nice, neat line doesn't interest me. I enjoy tilting perceptions, when the facts with which you are presented suddenly skew, morph or fall into doubt and thereby change the shape of the story as you go along. I also wanted to do the entire novel from the POV of the main character, with no cutaways. You see all the events the same time the protagonist does. You get news only when he gets it. And when conflicting information swims in, you get the tools to change your opinion at the same time he does.
PW: You've spoken eloquently on the craft of short story writing and written a lot of them between novels. Do you prefer writing short stories to novels?
DS: I love short stories, but lately I need a hard-line reason to do each new one, because editors who solicit stories, by and large, are hoping you'll repeat a "trick" you've done already. Some people have large and very honorable bodies of work strictly due to this "cloning" method. I prefer a more Japanese point of view, which goes something like: "Do not mistake the man who claims 20 years of experience when in fact he only has one year of experience, 20 times." I need a way in, a slant, a new ruffle in the fabric, something that makes it worthwhile for me to write the thing in the first place, because then it's a journey for me, too. If I'm just boring myself, doing make-work, the reader will be bored.
PW: In the late 1980s, your name was associated with horror fiction's splatterpunk phenomenon. Do you still feel any connection to it?
DS: Yeah, I wore plaid bellbottoms in the 1970s, too, but I don't today. I'm enormously proud of splatterpunk, because, now, pay attention: I got a word into the dictionary. If you think that's easy, try it someday. Arguably, the OED is the hardest market of all to crack.