Interviewed by Raechel Dumas, April 19, 2005
What makes Soul Resin an experimental novel?
The "experimental" tag can be as much a millstone as a term of praise, because the mainstream literary fiction establishment has very narrow guidelines as to what constitutes good fiction and they (reviewers, publishers, booksellers) are apt to slam the gate on "experimental" work so readers don't have to be challenged by it (but I guess these observations won't come as a shock from an FC2 author). I guess Soul Resin is experimental because its style and structure are original, i.e. no book that I know of has been done exactly that way before. It's the multiple points of view encompassing not only different voices but different genres of writing (including non-fiction). It's also the infusion of 'B' lit ("genre" fiction) themes and devices into a literary novel. In a mainstream literary marketplace dominated by politically toothless social realism, ghosts walking the earth--with political opinions, at that—is pretty unusual.
Your style has been compared to that of Faulkner. Do you agree with this comparison? Is he an influence?
Wow. Compared to Faulkner. I love you. Faulkner is to a certain kind of southern writer what Jose Marti is to a certain kind of Latin American writer, something akin to a national hero. He managed to be stylistically innovative, ethically committed, and recognized. I've got the first two of those terms covered—it's the last that eludes me, of course. Faulkner is most certainly an influence on my own writing. Early reading of Faulkner largely defined what I thought of as "great literature," before I even contemplated seriously trying my own hand at writing. You'll see Faulkner's influence in my penchant for technical innovation, in my rambling, drunken, musical syntax, and in my sense of the south as a mythical space of supernatural forces (and as a cursed place, because of the staggering crimes committed here).
Why did you choose to ground your plot in people, places, and events of the Reconstruction Era? Do you explore any other time periods in your works?
Reconstruction is one of the most overlooked episodes in U.S. history. The failure of Reconstruction is one of the most tragic, far-reaching events in our history, especially, obviously, for the south. Why did all of the former Confederate states vote for G.W. Bush in 2004? The answer can be found in the politics of the Reconstruction Era. Other periods of interest? I like the 1920s-30s, 1960s-70s. I've also long contemplated a novel set during New Orleans' colonial period. Lately, though, I've been setting stuff in our time (roughly).
What inspired the concept of Soul Resin?
I was watching the "X-Files" all the time when I came up with the idea (early seasons). And horror movies by Clive Barker, Wes Craven, Stephen King books. The other element would come probably from Faulkner's "Southern Curse" concept (esp. as elaborated in Go, Down Moses; Absalom, Absalom; Light in August). But it's my own sick weird idea, ultimately.
Has living in New Orleans significantly impacted your interests and writing?
Well, definitely. I've made a conscious choice (until further notice) to not only set all my work in New Orleans, but to have the unique mystique of New Orleans as a central theme in every work, too. I left NO to go to college at 18 and stayed gone (besides visits) for fifteen years, during which time I came to realize that the freak I had become was some kind of special New Orleans creation—especially because I grew up not in a suburb or Uptown, but in the Creole Districts (Faubourg Marigny and French Quarter). So to explore myself (what writers are really doing, they're all narcissists) I have to explore the idea of New Orleans.
Interview with C.W. Cannon
Interview with C.W. Cannon