PW: Your depiction of contemporary Manhattan in Fury has caught all the hallmarks of the frenetic New York scene. Has this always been your impression of this portion of America, or did it grow on you once you settled here?
SR: I've been wanting to write more about America for a long time. The last section of The Ground Beneath Her Feet was a first attempt at doing that. But this book came out of nowhere and seized me by the throat. It insisted on being written. I think my shifting to New York opened a new door in my head. So it was very exciting to write—and very scary. New Yorkers are a tough audience. When I first showed the book to lifetime New Yorkers I was afraid of their reaction. But luckily they told me that it was fantastic how I'd caught everything.
PW: Is this a conscious attempt to attract more American readers?
SR: I'm always happy to have as many readers as possible, but really that has never been it for me. If I had wanted to do that I would have written different kinds of books from the beginning. I can't write and I wouldn't wish to write about the U.S. in the way of people who have lived here all their lives. As an informed outsider, I felt I had some kind of vision of the place that made sense. New York is a place in which people are constantly arriving and adding to the city in their own ways. I thought I'd add one brick to that edifice.
PW: Does Professor Solanka represent a new class of Indians, people who live in perpetual exile from the mother country?
SR: One of the things about having the kind of experiences I've had is that I'm part of this Indian diaspora in which people now think of themselves in another way—as an Indian and also an American, for example. That double vision is what I've always felt is what people like me can use and offer to readers.
PW: What makes women fall for Solly, who is not conventionally good-looking. Is it his brains or his money?
SR: One of the great fortunes of being a man is that women find all sorts of men attractive. You don't have to be a hunk. I think what makes Solly so successful with women is that he's wounded, and therefore he's open to people.
PW: Solly is acutely aware of the simmering fury in human society these days. He says, "the whole world was burning on a shorter fuse." To counteract that fury, much of this book is wildly funny. The scene in which three women show up in Solly's bedroom is gleefully farcical. How did you conceive it?
SR: At the point in that scene where Solly pulls a knife, I thought that readers would expect total mayhem, and I was very pleased to find a way to turn that into comedy. I like that way of not giving people what they expect.
PW: This book has only 272 pages. It's thin by your standards.
SR: The Ground Beneath Her Feet was an enormous labor for me. On the day I finished that book, I said to myself, "write shorter books, more often." [Deep chuckle.] Here, I found I could say something in a briefer format. I've sometimes written what I call "everything" books, but it's quite nice now to be liberated from the idea. I'm hoping to become suddenly more prolific.
PW: This is your first book with Ann Godoff. Was it an easy transition for you?
SR: Basically what happened to me between books is that I lost the people who were my editors. I found myself deprived on both sides of the ocean. And I said to Andrew [Wylie, Rushdie's agent], what I really need most is a smart editor. And Ann is certainly that.
PW: With an eight-city tour, you'll certainly be very visible around the country. You're still considered something of a celebrity sighting. How do you feel about that?
SR: In England they've gotten so used to me that they're bored. And that's the secret: boring people. Once they get used to having you around they stop thinking of you as a freak show. I look forward to achieving this status in America.