PW: What made you decide to adopt a first-person narrative with Basket Case?
CH: I'd never done it before, and with each novel, I like to do something a little different, to take a chance and stretch a little bit. I thought it would be interesting, from a writer's viewpoint, to spend a whole novel inside one character's head. I actually wrote the first five chapters two different ways. First, I did it in the first person as it appears in the novel, then, because I was having second thoughts, I redid it in a third-person POV. Then I mulled both over and decided I liked the first-person better, so I stuck with it.
PW: The upshot is that the novel reads as more of a straightforward whodunit than one of your caper novels like Sick Puppy. Was this deliberate?
CH: Not really. That's the natural result of not being able to see a lot of scenes going on simultaneously. My main objective was to really get inside the main character's skull for the duration. It was a writing exercise. I still consider it to be a satirical novel, and certainly not a conventional mystery in any way.
PW: Do you have any plans to work the 2000 presidential election into your fiction?
CH: I've been asked before. I was doing the newspaper columns throughout the whole thing, and it got to where it wore me down, because you could see so much of it coming, and you knew it was going to play out in a way that deadened everyone's senses. At some point, it became something beyond satire, and while I do think you could write a satirical novel about it, so much has changed since 9/11, including the country's appetite for reliving the Florida fiasco, that I'd be hesitant to go into it at this point, because my own appetite for it has diminished.
PW: Given recent events, are you going through with your tour?
CH: I'm going to do a tour, there's no doubt about it, and the only way you do it is you grit your teeth and get back on an airplane, but it's certainly changed one's perspective. There's two sides to the argument. One is that now, more than ever, people could use a laugh, and they'd enjoy the diversion of a book signing. The other is that getting the excitement up to do that isn't easy. I have a feeling it's going to be a difficult couple of years, but we've still got to forge ahead. People are still buying books, and that's a great sign.
PW: Have your publishers (either book or newspaper) changed their plans for your work over the past month?
CH: In the newspaper, I get to do whatever I want to do, and it would be unnatural to not write about what's been happening, since so much of it had a Florida connection, from 14 of the original 19 hijackers to the first anthrax attack. So it's almost inevitable that I have to write more of those kinds of columns. With the books, again, I've been lucky, because everyone sort of leaves me alone, and I can focus on what I'm comfortable with. There's been so much written, and will be so many books written about what happened here the last weeks, and the trick is—all of us have to do this, whether you're a writer or not—to figure out what you feel about it. It's not an easy thing to come to terms with. My sense from the mail I get is that people still want to laugh and that there's a tremendous yearning for escape and fun. I think we have a duty, those of us who're in the business of writing funny stuff, to keep trying to write it.