“[Readers] want the writer to have some sort of personal experience with the narrative. It’s bizarre. People are expecting fiction to be real. We don’t want our writers to write about magic without having grown up in a family full of magicians. The same thing happens when you put people in these boxes. I can’t think of a novel published recently that is a person of one race writing about another race that’s met with much critical success. Why? Why can’t we? That’s our job as writers: To step out of our skins and into other people’s. To the extent that we’re not doing that, we’re not doing our jobs.”
“Humor is essential to survival. Funny poems are vastly underrated. Very underwritten.”
“I saw this quote by Steve Earle that said, “Write about what you know. Everybody knows something.” And that was it, that was my motto. It was just good to remember that I have experienced my life. I have questions about things, be they very mundane. So I was waking up every day and writing in the morning and then recording at night, and whatever I woke up with on my mind, I would write about that. It’s inexhaustible, you know?”
“When you go on a stage—or even in a café or a room—and you play it’s all happening right then and there: the exchange, the art, the communication. Performance is in the moment.”
“Perugia is an absolutely fascinating city, with thousands of years of intense history. And the stories are quite sensationalist. Here is where a woman was sacrificed to the Sun God, I would read in my guidebook while walking around the city. Here is where a woman was flayed alive.”
“I was going to say it’s very hard, but actually it’s impossible to feel the passage of time, because it’s not 1980 anymore, but also it is. I’m not the same person but I’m also the same person. It’s confusing. When the world changes around you in a way that you’ve somehow influenced or had something to do with, it’s kind of disconcerting, like a Philip K. Dick novel. “Isn’t reality a stable thing I can push against? I can alter reality? Aah!” I’m not saying it’s unpleasant, I’m just saying it’s destabilizing, because the world is simpler when you are twenty and reality is massive stone walls that you can’t chip at. The truth is that you can’t actually change anything—you can try. Ripples of ripples and ripples have a slight impact, not as much as you would want but more than you think.”
“Lepucki: I am glad it’s resonated with people because, for me, most apocalyptic novels aren’t scary, because they feel so very far off.

I love The Road and Oryx and Crake, but they feel like they’re distant from our own world. California takes place in the 2050s, so it’s not that far off.

Rumpus: Right, and I think doing it that way means it’s not as heavy-handed. It’s not zombies. Not volcanoes. It is slow and grinding, unstoppable, and partially human-caused. Everybody can see it happening, but no one knows what to do about it. It sounds a little too familiar.

Lepucki: Right? It’s a bit scary to see my book come true: the recent (if minor) LA earthquakes, Hurricane Sandy, the Boston bomber, and so on—much of it stoppable, I think, and yet I, too, am also guilty of passivity.”
“If you have some other profession that allows you your evenings or weekends, terrific, stick with that. Having a profession other than writing also has the potential side benefit of providing you with material, something to write about. I tell my students, if you’re interested in marine biology or llama farming, follow that string. Yes, it will probably take you a longer time to write that book, but it’s not a race. That’s another great thing about being a writer: you don’t age out.”
“Early on, as I saw my friends get married, I had this sense that I’m not just like everyone else who’s doing this same bullshit thing just to do it. I didn’t actually understand why they were so eager to do this thing that no one had thought deeply about the meaning of. And I know this is a total generalization—some of them got married in different ways, and some very much thought about it—but in a worldview kind of way, most people don’t think about marriage as a choice.”