What for you is the relationship between writing and death? Not just literal death but dying emotionally, psychologically, spiritually. Dying to one's own ego, dying to what's allowed and what's forbidden. Writing about the dead and bringing them back to life through writing?
I'll try to answer this part of the question: What is it like for me to die to what's allowed and what's forbidden? Part of the fictive invented I is that you get to be braver, bigger, stronger than you really are. There are risks you can take sitting at home at your computer that out there in the real world are much more difficult to do. But that's what fiction is for. In real life, you may wish you would have done or said something at a certain time. With fiction, you don't have to wish. You can do it. But just because it's fiction doesn't mean it's not a difficult task. To face up to your demons takes a lot of chutzpah wherever you are. Most of what we fear is internal. Most of what we fear is the way we've internalized our parents, our religion, the bullies who hated us. Heidigger defines thinking as: the silent conversation we are having with ourselves. So what we fear actually are our own ingrained thought patterns — the way we have been talking to ourselves our entire lives. So even to call out the name of our devils in our little writing rooms with our cups of tea and the space heater by our feet, requires great courage. (Remember yesterday's Zen saying: within us all there is a great battle waging?)
It takes balls to make a safe place for yourself where you can tell what is true for you. What is true for you is usually not allowed and is forbidden.
Fiction is the lie that tells the truth truer.
In Faraway Places, my narrator confronts the character of his father in a way that I only later in real life was able to do with my own father. If I would never have done it in fiction, I doubt I'd have done it in real life.
In The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon, I got to be something little Catholic Tommy never had the chance to be: a whore. A man who takes money for his sex. It was very liberating. I also got to take on the Dogmatic Man and His Little Black Book; that is, I got to take on established religion and show what a bunch of horse shit it really is. And there's something else quite daring about Moon, and I'm quite proud of it. I got to write about the Old West the way you'll never see in John Wayne movies. One reviewer called Moon "postmodern," meaning I blended in current trends or styles into a classical history. Postmodern my ass. Homosexuality has been around as long as there have been human beings.
In In the City of Shy Hunters, I killed a cop and fucked the archbishop.
Now Is the Hour, I got to talk about racism. Me, little old white me, talking about racism. Not in LA, not in New York City, not in Mississippi. Racism in a rural Idaho town.
In I Loved You More, I got to write a love story that only gods could bring about. A gay man and a straight man loving each other. A straight woman and a gay man loving each other. And then the three of them, the gay man, the straight man, the straight woman, a love triangle. Each one of them is intelligent, educated, an artist. All of them are caught up in a tragic mess of ambiguities only the very particularities of the three of them could bring about.
Love, death, religion, racism, gender, sex.
Little Tommy Spanbauer could never have written about these things. In order to write about these big life things, I had to step up. Had to die to what's allowed and what's forbidden.