Marlon James is the author of A Brief History of Seven Killings.
From his Q & A with Brook Stephenson at the Gawker Review of Books:
How did you get into writing?--Marshal Zeringue
In a weird way, OutKast kind of did it. Just the idea that you could be an artist and have this body of work that's outside of you. Regardless of what happens to you there's this document. I wanted to make art that was outside of me. That, and also reading books that make me want to write books. Gabriel Garcia Marquez talks about the book that gives permission to the writer. For him it was The Metamorphosis. For me, it was Salman Rushdie's Shame.
Why that one?
I read lots of great books, but that was the book when I said, "All right that's it, I got to write." I think, for me, there's The Book I Should Write and The Book I Wanted to Write—and they weren't the same book. The Book I Should Write should be realistic since I studied English Lit. It should be cultural. It should reflect where I am today. The Book I Wanted to Write would probably include flying women, magic, and all of that. And I didn't think that book was allowed. I remember reading Rushdie's Shame and being appalled by it. The only way you can capture the craziness of a Pakistan-like country is to go into the fantastical and to the ridiculous, and break structure. That gave me permission to write whatever I wanted. Knowing that and then summoning the courage to write that. Even writing in dialect was big for me. For example, writing in Jamaican patois was a big deal because that's not how I was raised. It's not what you speak in school. It's not what you speak in business. It's just backward talking, and the idea of writing an entire novel, or most of a novel, in patois was almost unheard of. But...[read on]