In Mauro's debut, New World Monkeys, struggling young marrieds Duncan and Lily spend a summer in upstate New York contending with a dead wild boar and the human bones in their backyard.
You worked in advertising for a while. Were you always interested in writing fiction?
I've worked in advertising for over a decade, but I was always writing. The pleasure of the weekend was a short story. I eventually decided to leave the industry, return to grad school and try creative writing full time. The program I did was a three-year hiatus and a safe place to really kind of sit and write and focus. It was the space I needed to try a longer-format piece.
How did you come up with some of the more out-there ideas—the boar named “Sovereign of the Deep Wood” and Lloyd the town pervert?
I haven't had the experience of befriending a peeping Tom, but I loved writing Lloyd. He was the most consistently honest character in the book. He could craft an argument to justify any of his deviant behaviors. Lily, my female character, needed that, a shaking up, so to speak. The “Sovereign” came to me through a road accident. A friend had actually run over a wild boar. He put the boar on the hood of his car, brought it to the party he was going to and roasted it. I wanted to explore what would happen if someone did the opposite. What would happen to a man who couldn't bring himself to add the finishing touches?
And what about the body in the backyard?
My uncle was expanding my aunt's garden, at a home she had lived in for about 50 years. They turned over a flat stone on which someone had inscribed “Tinker, 1902.” It's this reminder that there's always a layer of civilization under the surface of the land we think we know so well.
What made you want to contrast these goings on in this small town with the equally deviant goings on in the Manhattan ad agency?
It's not necessarily a loving portrait of the industry. Duncan's experience is not far off the mark. Yes, he creates a misogynist campaign that would never see the light of day, but it's the ultimate ad campaign creatives would never get to do. The desire to do award-winning work, the jealousy involved in it, the devotion to it, all felt real when I was writing it. As we get closer to publication, within the framework of today's economy and the fear and paranoia widespread in every industry, it feels especially true. There's a fight to survive at work.