Photo credit: Linda Peters
Describe your latest book.
My new novel Gork, the Teenage Dragon
has the plot of a John Hughes movie, but takes place at a high school for dragons. Think Sixteen Candles
meets Harry Potter
, if Harry had scales and a tail. The novel’s narrated by a 16-year-old dragon named Gork. He has two-inch horns, a giant heart, a predisposition to fainting, and a Will To Power ranking of Snacklicious, the lowest in his senior class.
Gork is a senior at WarWings Military Academy for Draconum, and the novel takes place on Crown Day, when senior male dragons have to find a female dragon who will accept their crown and agree to mate with them. If the dragonette says yes, then the couple will launch into space, so that they can conquer a foreign planet together and start a colony. In this world, the female dragons are extremely fierce and tough. And Gork has his sights on Runcita, the most beautiful and powerful dragonette in his class.
Gork’s allies are his best friend Fribby, a silver robot dragon whose Will To Power rank is MegaBeast, and his sentient spaceship, Athenos II. Also possibly his grandpa, the mad scientist dragon Dr. Terrible. But definitely not Runcita’s father, Dean Floop, who lost an eye recently in an altercation with Dr. Terrible.
Did I mention Sixteen Candles
Think of it as the most epic adventure ever to get a prom date, but with dragons.
What was your favorite book as a child?
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
. I read and studied this book so much it changed the shape of my brain (I used to have a very round-shaped head, but then it became tall and pointy like a skyscraper). My parents divorced when I was five and I’m an only child, so I treated Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
like the sibling I never had. We went everywhere together, we shared a lot of inside jokes, and we learned to see the insanity of the real world around us for what it was — a book not nearly as well-written as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Or maybe we grew new eyes together, with extrasensory perception. What that book and I did was a complete and total mind-meld. As a kid, sometimes we’d see the ghost of who I used to be wandering around in the backyard, the non-Alice-enhanced version of myself. He was a pitiful creature, and nobody I cared to know.
That book taught me something else invaluable, or maybe we learned it together. THE ADULTS IN OUR LIVES WERE MOSTLY GIGANTIC LIARS AND GLARING HYPOCRITES, THEIR DAYS EXPLICITLY DESIGNED TO AVOID EVER HAVING TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT FACT.
On the flip side, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
showed me that the best and most audacious lies were the truth, and as you turned the pages you could feel the truth vibrating through your entire body like a tuning fork. Of course, even with my fantastic new sibling Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
, I was still pretty miserable. It took many more years for me to fully understand that reading was the only way to access reality.
Even today my head is still very tall, and there’s no thought in there that doesn’t have at least a little Wonderland shape to it.
When did you know you were a writer?
As a kid I told everyone that I loved to write and that when I grew up I’d be a professional writer. Though the truth is, back then I hadn’t really written anything. When I listened to that Beatles song "Paperback Writer" I could sort of feel myself becoming a writer, but I never told anyone about that because I wasn’t sure they’d understand. What with them not being a writer and all. Somehow with all that telling I think I sort of just talked myself into being a writer. By the time I realized what I’d done, it was too late to turn back.
What does your writing workspace look like?
It’s a giant bed with white sheets and six pillows and a body pillow to prop my legs up on and a bed wedge to lean back against. It’s as close as you can come to floating in a cloud.
What do you care about more than most people around you?
I’m sort of obsessed with the idea that there are other ways of experiencing reality that are as or more legitimate than ours. Why do animals stare at us like that? Can they see that we’re actually tiny hairless creatures trapped inside a snow globe?
Tell us something you're embarrassed to admit.
I’ll tell you something I maybe should be embarrassed to admit but I’m not — I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.
Introduce some authors you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
I wholeheartedly recommend:
1. Saeed Jones’s poetry collection Prelude to Bruise
2. Karen Russell’s novel Swamplandia!
3. Kelly Link’s story collection Get in Trouble
4. Alex Gilvarry’s forthcoming novel Eastman Was Here
Besides your personal library, do you have any beloved collections?
Not known or locatable. I’ve moved around a lot, and mostly just give stuff away. So hopefully other people have beloved collections, with a trace of my ghost floating around them.
What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
Probably serving as reservist in the Marine Corps infantry during college. Strangest thing about that was it grew my capacity for empathy by a bazillion. I learned to have greater love and compassion for a whole bunch of different kinds of people who came from all walks of life that were radically different from my own. In no way am I recommending that anyone enlist. This was just part of my own weird path. And I’m grateful for it.
Have you ever made a literary pilgrimage?
Honestly I feel like I’ve been on a literary pilgrimage my entire life, trying to find myself. So far no sightings.
What scares you the most as a writer?
That the psychic toll will turn out to have been too great and not worth it. It’s a form of flirting with insanity. I once started to calculate how many hours I’d already spent alone in a room in my life, but then some survival switch went off in my head and I lost all sense of who or what I was. Still not sure I’m all the way back yet.
If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title and subtitle?
A True Fool: Never Even Right About How Incredibly Wrong He Was (About Everything)
Share a sentence of your own that you're particularly proud of.
"And how our love is a miracle."
Proud of it because of all the comedy and emotional registers you have to hit in the course of a novel in order to think you might’ve earned the right to state something that earnest, and mean it with all your heart.
Describe a recurring or particularly memorable dream or nightmare.
I’ve been having horrible nightmares since I was a little kid. I wet my bed until much later than normal. As a kid, I used to wake up screaming in the middle of the night, one of my parents rushing in the door. Bet you don’t want to ask me any more nightmare questions, right? I’m just glad I’m seeing my shrink tomorrow.
What's your biggest grammatical pet peeve?
People's insistence that such a thing exists. Grammar’s an outdated superstition. Leave it for the crypto-zoologists.
Do you have any phobias?
I’m always on the lookout for new ones, but I’ve had a nice batch in rotation for as long as I can remember. Crazy fear of heights, fear that evolution made a terrible mistake by pushing us forward, fear that I died a while back and just haven’t realized it yet, fear that I might die while answering these questions…
Name a guilty pleasure you partake in regularly.
Does living count as a guilty pleasure?
What's the best advice you’ve ever received?
“You are such an idiot, you messed everything up so bad.” (From the voice in my head.)
Did you write your new novel to, in some way, help out some younger version of yourself that was helplessly floundering around, lost in the darkness?
Yeah right, like you ever outgrow any of those problems.
Top Five Books That Can Be Enjoyed Equally by the Living and the Dead (You Don’t Have to Stop Reading Just Because You Die, Think of Death Like a Bookmark):
I love books that are unbiased, that light up young and old hearts in equal measure. Or no hearts even, just the empty space in your rib cage where a robin built a nest. When a book has no target audience, provides equal-opportunity enchantment. I’m talking about books whose power lies in the fact that they can’t be contained or explained. Their imaginative swagger is terrifyingly humane, maybe even hilarious. I’m talking about shapeshifter books, leaping easily and with joy over all those walls and borders designed to keep stories in their place, to break their spirit. Books that can be enjoyed by the dead and the living, written with a logic that translates above or below ground. At the local cemetery library, a skeleton hand reaches for such a book. Something for everyone. These books have age-defying appeal.
1. J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit
2. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods
3. Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Wizard of Earthsea
4. J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
5. Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass
÷ ÷ ÷
is the author of Dear Mr. President
, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award and winner of the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Hudson was named one of Granta
's 20 Best of Young American Novelists and was a recipient of the Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, the John Hawkes Prize in Fiction from Brown University, and the Adele Steiner Burleson Award in Fiction from the University of Texas at Austin. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker
, The New York Times Magazine
, The Village Voice
, Black Book
, and Granta
. For many years, he was Editor-at-Large for McSweeney’s
. He lives in Brooklyn. Gork, the Teenage Dragon
is his most recent book.