In your stories and in your film Me And You And Everyone We Know, many of your characters are sad, lonely, awkward and somewhat ill-prepared for the world. Why are you drawn to these kinds of characters?
That’s how I feel a lot of the time. There are a lot of shades within that lonely zone, and it never fails to feel new to me. I’m often taking parts of myself and giving them a whole person to fill up instead of the tiny shard that I allow. I am lonely, but I don’t let loneliness take over my life.
Your work seems, ultimately, to want to be consoling and helpful. Is that intentional?
Yeah. At times, I do have kind of grandiose visions that my work at the very least provides some comfort to someone who might be feeling as I did when I wrote it. I know what it’s like to get that kind of comfort from a book or a song, and I believe in that so strongly.
Have you always written fiction alongside the other work you do?
No. I really started right around the time I started writing the film, 2000 or so. I think I initially thought I would be a writer, then I tried to do everything else instead to stall finding out whether or not I could do it.
I gather that Rick Moody had something to do with your start as a writer—how did that happen?
Also around 2000, I met him. He came to a performance of mine. He’s actually secretly a performer and a songwriter himself. As long as he was sharing that side of himself with me, I said I secretly want to do what you do. I sent him some stories. And he said rather simply that if you want to do this, you have as much right as anyone. In terms of feeling like a writer, I needed an elder to give permission.
Does writing fiction fit in neatly with your filmmaking and performance?
I always feel like I’m the best at whatever I’m not doing right now. Writing is the most satisfying medium to get right. There’s not a lot of leeway to charm your way out of mistakes, like with good lighting or music or whatever. It really just is what it is. I think there’s a kind of rigor that helps the other mediums too.
What’s next? Another movie? More fiction?
I’m working on my next screenplay, so right at the moment I’m imagining myself as a great fiction writer.