Question: Why do you use recurring characters?
Bret Easton Ellis: I have no idea why that happens.
It's not any kind of system. It just feels right. There are certain
times when I'm in the middle of an outline and I'm building the novel
and I'm thinking about okay where it's going to go. And then feeling my
way through where it should go, or trying to track the journey of the
narrator and where he's going to end up. And along the way there will
be characters where I think, "Oh this guy needs to come in. Well, who is
this guy? Oh."
For example, in "Lunar Park" the Bret Easton
Ellis character lives on Elsinore Lane in this big mansion and I wanted
to give him neighbors, you know, I wanted someone to live by him. And i
thought about this, you know, minor character from the "Rules of
Attraction" called I think Mitchell Allen and I thought oh that would be
really funny because Bret in the novel went to college with Mitchell,
who was a character in the "Rules of Attraction" and that will be fun to
riff on, you know, a paragraph or two about their college days
And I don't know, that's just how it happens. But, you
know, I'm asked this question a lot. There is no plan, it feels right
and something that I like to do.
Question: In your last book, "Lunar Park," you named the main
character Bret Easton Ellis. Why?
Bret Easton Ellis: Well for me it made the book a lot
more exiting to write because I was kind of stuck on that book. I was
scratching my head a lot while I was outlining it and it really wasn't
coming together in the way that I wanted it to come together. It was
very much about a fiction writer like myself but I had named him someone
else and I erased some autobiographical information. And the book just
wasn't coming together for me. And I was like pacing around, scratching
my head wondering why and then, you know, I had this voice in my head
that's "the writer," I call him. And he said, "Why don't you just make
it Bret Easton Ellis? Why don't you just try that and see what
And pretty much the novel was laid out the way it has
been published. It was pretty much laid out that way. But the minute
that I put myself in it everything started to change in terms of the
tone, the writing style. It became much more personal and I became
completely committed and more gripped by this novel than I previously
was. Look I was writing a very auto-biographical novel. Forget the
Stephen King shenanigans that are in the last third of the book but
overall I was really writing about my dad and my feelings about my
father, and how difficult our relationship was. Wa-wa-wa I know,
everyone has their daddy issues, their daddy stories but mine were
weighing heavily on me at this time and I needed to get rid of them.
And writing a book for me is often an exorcism and so with "Lunar Park" I
needed to go to that place where it was actually Bret Easton Ellis and
not Dale Fischer or whatever the name of character was at the time. And
because of that, the book became alive to me and it started breathing
and seemed much more compelling. And by the time I finished the book,
you know, a lot of things lifted off me. I think it was important to go
there and to do that, at least for me.
Recorded June 23, 2010
Interviewed by David Hirschman