I haven’t earned out most of my novels, in the sense that they haven’t paid back the advance. Books were never something that would make you rich. I’ve been able to make a living as a writer, but always with stress about money, scraping by from pay cheque to pay cheque. Whenever I complain about money to my boyfriend, who’s a millennial and a dem- ocratic socialist – I think he’s actually a communist –, and say, “How am I going to pay the mortgage?”, he’s disgusted. He thinks I’m rich, but he doesn’t know my tax situation and doesn’t realize it’s all a big mess.
Don’t the film adaptions – Less Than Zero, or American Psycho, for instance – come with a big pay cheque?
The big pay cheque snapsext for American Psycho was that the production company optioned the book, meaning that they don’t buy it, but they give you a little bit of money so that they can control the rights. And they kept optioning the book every year, so that was a money flow coming in for a few years. And then, of course, when they finally buy the book to adapt it to film, then yes, you do get a bit of money. But then again, American Psycho was never a number-one bestseller, and didn’t have a lot of people trying to adapt it, just the one production company. So, basically, I had to accept their offer. And believe me, it wasn’t that high. I was like: “Okay, I’ll take the money, they’ll never make this book into a movie, and let’s just be done with it.” And then things turned out differently. So in many ways it was a bad deal for me, even though it seemed like a good one at the time.
Once you’ve sold the book, to what extent can you intervene on the movie adaptation? It depends on the production company, and it depends on the writer. E.L. James, with Fifty Shades of Grey, was granted total control over the film franchise that was spun out of her novels. I’ve done it a couple of times, I did it recently on a small horror movie that was based on a script of mine, and that I also produced. I had a say in the casting, and the choice of cinematographer. But every deal is different, and most of the time I haven’t had a say on any of the movies that were adapted from my books.
Do millennials actually read books? No, not really. Well, maybe they read books, but I don’t know that they write books. I’ve been waiting for the great millennial novel, and it hasn’t happened. Which kind of suggests something to me. I mean, they’ve been around for over a decade, and they’ve already all hit their 30s. I have a feeling it’s because they don’t read – my boyfriend will only read very occasionally, maybe one or two books a year, but I feel that it isn’t really a thing for him, unlike it is for me. I was raised in an era where novels were items – I would carry a paperback around with me all the time – and that’s where I would get my information about the world, that’s where I learned about other cultures, through novels. So I was trained, in a way, to read them, and I still do. I have two or three going right now. Reading gives me a lot of pleasure. However, I don’t think it gives my boyfriend the same kind of pleasure as when he’s playing a long-form video game with many characters and a very complicated narrative. That’s what he does in the morning, while I go back to the bedroom and open up another book. I’m not saying that in a superior way, it’s just the way of the world.