Q: Until now, you’ve most notably been the author of nonfiction works, on topics related to health and healing. What made you, at nearly sixty years old, want to turn to fiction?
A: The easy answer would be to invoke the term “bucket list” and let it go at that. And that’s certainly true. In my youthful daydreams, I was never the author of a book called Practical Homeopathy. I was a novelist like the novelists I saw in the movies: with corduroy jackets and leather elbow patches and pipes clenched in their teeth. With silver streaks in their hair, they wrote wry comments on the frontispiece of their books before handing them over to their adoring fans. Instead, I ended up bald, wearing an Old Navy sweatshirt. And creatively dissatisfied.
I realized a few years back that I would remain unsatisfied as long as I did not give myself the opportunity to create on a more fundamental, more challenging level than I had in the past. Whether I was writing books on healing—books I am very proud of, although creatively they amount to little more than long, long term papers—or interviews or features or reviews of other people’s books, plays and films, I felt in my bones that I was as capable of writing a novel or a play or even a film as the people I was reading. I knew that at some point, I had to step away from the work I was doing and give myself an opportunity to try. After what I call my “mortality moment,” one of those middle-of-the-night chest-clenchers that we all get after age fifty, I finally surrendered to the inevitable question, “If not now—when?” and set to work. My first novel, Death in Venice, California is the result. And my just-finished second novel, Glossolalia, will, God willing, be the follow-up. For me, these represent far more than a new way of working. They represent a personal transformation, a transmutation if you will, from author to artist. And, hopefully, there’s no going back.
—Vinton Rafe McCabe is the author of Death in Venice, California, a darkly comic tale of yearning, its rewards and its costs–based on Thomas Mann’s classic Death in Venice. Read the first 2paragraphs.