Numéro: Are you more of a happy or a sad person?
Bret Easton Ellis: I think I’ve always been more of a melancholic person, perhaps. Always a bit of an optimist. I think you have to be somewhat optimistic in order to write fiction. You can be sad about the state of the world, but writing fiction is an active thing, it’s not passive. So you’re actually doing something, and in order to do something, I think you have to be... I don’t know if happy is the right word, and I don’t know that I can break the world down into “happy” and “sad”... I would definitely say I’m not a sad person. But on the other hand, can I really say that being human is a happy experience? I just don’t know.
Does writing help? Is it a means towards happiness?
It is, because it takes you out of yourself, you’re getting something done, you’re creating something, and you forget about the world. I also feel a sense of accomplishment when I’ve written something, even if it’s just my podcast or answering emails. So all day long I’m writing, which is something I’m compelled to do. It helps ground me.
“By the time it’s published, you actively dislike the book. And then you have to go out and promote it.”
When writing a novel, when do you feel that sense of accomplishment? When you’ve written the last sentence? Or when the book becomes a bestseller?
The novels usually take a long time to write – up to eight years sometimes – and I don’t think I’m going to spend that much time on a book ever again. If I do write another novel, I’m going to do it very quickly, and enjoy myself, and not think it out too much. But I do think that, because my novels always took such a long time, there were stages. I worked on the first section of Glamorama for two years. And when I got to that final section, I thought: “Great!” Many people say I should have stopped there, but I decided to go on for another five sections. So the accomplishment comes in gradations. But yes, there’s also always a massive sense of accomplishment when you write that last sentence. When I finished Glamorama, after eight years, I was by myself in my apartment, with all my notes scattered around me, and I was crossing things off, and typing a couple of sentences, and looking at the clock because I knew I had to meet friends for dinner at 7.30, and then I typed, “The mountain looks like the future,” and realized, “Oh, I’m done! I’m done with the book!” And that’s when I felt a wave of release wash over me.
“My boyfriend thinks I’m rich, but he doesn’t know my tax situation and doesn’t realize it’s all a big mess”