April 27, 2010
From the extensive interview in The Chicagoist with Barry Gifford, on Sailor & Lula, David Lynch, New Orleans and the vanished pleasures of Chicago hot dogs and crawfish etouffee:
CHICAGOIST: First of all, what was it like to see all of your novels in the same place, in the same book together?
GIFFORD: Well, somebody called it a milestone when they saw it. And I said, “It’s either that, or a headstone.” It’s the way I always wanted it, because really it’s all one long novel. In fact, when I had sold Wild at Heart to Grove Press–you know, they were preparing to publish it. But immediately thereafter I wrote Perdita Durango, and I realized that there were going to be more. And then I got the idea for Sailor’s Holiday, which was going to be the following novel. I said to my editor at the time, “You know, I think we ought to hold up on this and wait because there’s going to be more.” I mean, I didn’t realize there were going to be seven novels/novellas all told. But he said, “No, we can’t do it, because David Lynch just made the film of Wild at Heart.” They wanted to bring the paperback out when the movie came out. So I said, “Okay,” and they went ahead and they did Wild at Heart. But I always had it in my mind to put it all together. That’s really the form I always envisioned it being in, so finally it’s done. I’m really happy.
So you knew from the beginning that that there would be more than just one book?
When Perdita Durango first came into being, in the opening part of Wild at Heart, I realized that Perdita was a very strong character and she was threatening to take over the book. So what I really did was de-emphasize her in my own mind. I allowed her into Wild at Heart, but the character was so fascinating to me and I realized that she deserved her own book. And that became the second one. It came pretty fast, as far as that goes. In fact, when Lynch had written the first screenplay it was exactly like the book. The ending was the same and all that sort of thing. And then there was some debate about putting a happy ending on Wild at Heart. He called me up and said, “What happens? Do Sailor and Lula get back together again?” I said, “Definitely.” In any case, I was very aware that there was more to come, that Sailor and Lula had a future.
That must have been an incredible gift, to realize that there was so much more to dig into.
Well, more than one reviewer I know has mentioned that these kinds of characters, if a writer’s lucky, these characters only come along once in a lifetime. As long as they were alive and were speaking to each other, if not to me, I was just going to go with them. That’s why it was a nice surprise to me that after fifteen years The Imagination of the Heart came about. Lula got the last word, which is the way it should have been.
You should really not miss the rest of this interview: check it out over at The Chicagoist!