In the anthology In Sunlight or in Shadow, editor Block and 16 other authors, including Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen King, pen short stories inspired by Edward Hopper’s paintings.
How did this anthology come about?
I don’t know how ideas happen, and this one was as unknowable as any. I’d recently put together and published an anthology called Dark City Lights, and I was wondering idly what might serve as a theme for another anthology—with no real sense of urgency, because I think I netted something like 50 cents an hour for my work on Dark City Lights. And then the idea was just there, full-blown: stories inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper. And in the next breath the title came along, In Sunlight or in Shadow. The phrase is almost from the song “Danny Boy,” where it’s “in sunshine or in shadow,” but the title that came to me had sunlight instead, and I think it fits better.
How do you account for Hopper’s enduring appeal, despite the downbeat, lonely spirit of much of his work?
Clearly, he strikes a chord. His work resonates with people, and not because he’s a narrative painter—because he’s emphatically not. I’m not even sure Hopper made any effort to paint the moods we see in his work. Not consciously, anyway. He was painting form and light and color, and what he produced knocks our socks off.
Did you approach authors and ask them to select paintings?
I did, and almost immediately. The same afternoon that the idea came to me, I began drafting an email to prospective authors, and putting together a dream list of writers to invite. I knew the book would have to have a strong lineup, because permissions and production costs would be high, so the package would need a lot of commercial clout. I stressed that any sort of story was acceptable, that the book was by no means limited to crime fiction.
Did most of those you approached contribute?
Writing for anthologies is no way to get rich—and the writers I asked to the party all had full dance cards to begin with. And yet almost everybody said yes. With very few exceptions they picked their paintings and wrote their stories and delivered on time. And the reason for this, clearly, was Hopper. The man’s work is treasured in America and throughout the world, but it seems to me his work is particularly appealing to readers and writers. Not because his paintings tell stories. They don’t. What they do is suggest that there is a story there to be told. Which made them perfect launch pads for In Sunlight or in Shadow.