It’s been said so often that it’s become cliché, and yet it still rings true: “Write what you know.” But while you might think this bit of advice was ignored by Robert Levy when he wrote the supernatural thriller The Glittering World (hardcover, digital), he admits that it’s actually what he did…mostly.
Let’s start with the basics: What is The Glittering World about?
The Glittering World is the story of four friends on vacation in rural Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and all the wondrous and terrible things that happen to them there.
Where did you get the idea for it?
The basic scenario is pulled directly from my life. Four friends — me, my husband, and another couple — spent a week renting a vacation home in Cape Breton, and loved it so much that we kept going back to the same place, summer after summer. Eventually, my friends ended up buying the house. Everything I write tends to take something wonderful and turn it horribly wrong, and The Glittering World is no exception. It’s my make-believe version of reality, one that asks “What if this amazing place secretly wasn’t as bucolic as it seems?”
Scott Cheshire, who wrote High As The Horses’ Bridles, said the book was like “True Blood crossed with Margaret Atwood.” Do you think that’s a fair assessment, or do you have a better one in mind, like “Game Of Thrones crossed with Charles Simic” or “Metallica crossed with a breakfast burrito”?
It’s certainly complimentary, so I was thrilled to hear it! But I’ll toss you another: “Jennifer Egan meets Pan’s Labyrinth.” Hey, I actually like the sound of that….
This is a two-part question: Who do you consider to be your biggest influences on what you write about, and also how you write?
My biggest literary influence period is Elizabeth Hand. I’m a total fanboy. Aside from the fact that she’s a brilliant writer on a sentence level, she also happens to explore so much of what I’m most drawn to: paganism, the ecstatic, and the numinous; deeply powerful friendships between men and women that both incorporate and transcend sexual attraction; outsider art and artists that see things the rest of us are unwilling or incapable of gleaming. I know any time I pick up one of her books, I’m going to be both startled and rewarded in equal measure.
The Glittering World is told from the perspective of four different people. Why did you decide to do this, as opposed to just one person or third person omniscient?
I get bored pretty easily, as both a writer and a reader. I find the default mode of a single protagonist in a novel very safe and standard, and often quite lazily done as a result. While I am far from an experimental writer, I prefer to see long-form stories open themselves up to alternative forms of narration, whether they include multiple points of view or other unusual explorations of form. Honestly, I wish the average reader wasn’t so resistant to something even slightly outside the norm.
Were there ever times when using this four person approach caused problems?
Nope, though I’m sure I’ll get a lot of bellyaching about it. “Just when I felt like I was getting to know a certain character, it would suddenly switch!” As if your favorite television show doesn’t do that every ninety seconds.
You kind of already answered this, but what made you want to set The Glittering World in Nova Scotia, as opposed to somewhere else? Like, say, Brooklyn? After all, your bio says you live there “near a toxic canal.” That’s a scary place.
Like all those who are drawn to Gowanus, my industrial neighborhood centered around the aforementioned toxic canal, I too find beauty in ugliness and blight. In the case of Cape Breton, it was simply a matter of reversal, of finding terror in a place of such startling beauty and placidity.
The Glittering World is your first novel, but you’ve previously written a number of plays that have been performed off-Broadway. What was it about the story you wanted to tell that made you think it would work better as a novel than a play? Or was it that you wanted to write a novel and this is what came out?
I actually haven’t written a play for some time now, but funnily enough this story started as a concept for a screenplay. It was only once I was fishing around for something to write a novel about that I looked up at the Post-Its stuck to my wall and realized that this book was right there waiting for me to write it.
Now, has there been any talk of turning The Glittering World into a movie or TV show?
There has. And I can’t talk about it yet. In truth, I think it would work well as either a television show or a feature film, and I’m interested to see what shape it takes.
This would never happen, but if The Glittering World was going to be made into a movie or TV show, and they asked you who you think should direct it and star in it, who would you pick and why?
If I could wave a magic wand, it would be directed by Guillermo del Toro and star Robert Pattinson. The sensibility that del Toro brings to his work — the pitch-perfect mixture of dramatic realism and the dark fantastic — would fit this book like a glove. As for RPattz, he exudes damage and regret and hungry beauty, and could masterfully embody the down-on-his-luck chef Blue.
Finally, I usually end my author interviews by asking which of their other books they think people should read next. But since this is your first novel, I’ll ask this instead: If someone really liked The Glittering World and they asked you what they should read next, what would you say and why?