The Blinds (Faber, £7.99) is a dusty Texan town populated by misfits who have been given a second chance. With their memories altered they don’t know if they’ve committed a crime or just witnessed one. All they know is they can’t leave.
Much of the plot seems to pose the question: “What makes us who we are?” Were you trying to communicate a core message about human nature?
To be honest, I am always primarily concerned with getting the reader to turn from one page to the next. If that’s happening, I can worry about everything else later. But as a writer I’ve always been fascinated by questions of how your past actions influence who you are today. In The Blinds I had more room to play with this idea, because for much of the book the characters don’t even know what their past actions are — they just know that, in all likelihood, those actions were very bad.
Do humans have an inherent capacity for evil or is it nurture’s effect?
I think the story of Adam and Eve is a useful allegory here. We have a tendency toward good but a capacity for evil. Of course, some people might argue it’s the other way around – a tendency for evil but a capacity for good. What tips us one way or the other is the story of humankind.
Would you forget some past elements of your life, if you could?
That’s a good question and one I asked myself a lot while writing The Blinds. I don’t think it’s useful to forget things you’ve done — especially the things you’d most like to forget. But you also can’t be constrained by the idea that the mistakes you’ve made in the past are ones you are doomed to repeat. In fact, remembering and understanding those mistakes is the likeliest path to avoiding them in the future — at least, that’s the hope.
The violent, even savage, evil of many of the residents contrasts with the calculated, academic evil of the character Dr Halliday. Do you see one as more disturbing than the other, and why?
In the USA, given our current political situation, I often find myself asking who is worse — the malevolent ideologue or the cynical opportunist? The person with fervently held evil beliefs or the person with no ethical moorings at all? I think both are disturbing, but in some ways that more dispassionate version of evil – that does not see other people as fully human but only as a means to an end – can be more chilling.
Sony TV has bought the rights to adapt the novel. Are you working closely with it on the adaptation? How would you like to see this progress?
I have been involved in the process, which mostly involves allowing people who are smart about TV dream up ways to turn the book into a smart TV show. As to how I’d like to see it progress, in a shower of acclaim and awards.
In the final chapter of The Blinds you wrote about Sheriff Cooper’s concerns and questions about the future of the town. Are you planning a sequel to the novel? If not, what did you envision happening to the residents next?
I was not planning a sequel until I literally wrote the final sentence. But having spent so much time in this place, with these characters, I would certainly love to visit them again (of course, some of them I’ve already had to say goodbye to). It’s hard to say what would come next without revealing too much of what happens in The Blinds, but I do think this novel is very much about self-knowledge and what happens when you acquire it. So a further chapter would likely explore what happens when you already have that knowledge, and how it changes you, and what purposes you can put it to.
Your chapter titles are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Why no Saturday or Sunday?
Because the story was over! A lot happens to these people in five days. I figured I’d give them the weekend to recuperate.