Interview with Michael Chabon

The author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay talks about the making of his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, writing for Hollywood, the upcoming film version of his book, and gives us a tiny hint on what his next project will be.
Photo Credit: Patricia William

Magdalena: Tell me about the ideas which brought about the novel Kavalier & Clay. Did you begin with the comic book story, Magic/Escapism, the Golem, WW2, the story of Sam’s sexuality? Or were these threads all kicking about in your head together?

Michael: It started with an idea about that time period…the forties in NYC. My father was born in 1940 and would tell me stories that made it sound almost like a paradise of some kind…naive, full of life and vigor…Then I saw a picture of the two young men who created Superman, and I was off and running…

Magdalena: K&C is set in the Golden age of comics. Do you feel that the medium has continued to thrive and grow in an underground sense (beyond Crumb in the 60s)?

Michael: Nowadays, certainly. Dan Clowes, Ben Katchor, Chris Ware…

Magdalena: In one interview, you mention that originally you felt like the book’s premise might seem “dumb”, especially to people who weren’t comic book fans.Were you surprised at the broad scale of the book’s appeal?

Michael: In a word…stunned. But you know, my wife says it’s really a love story –and a novel about the Holocaust.

Magdalena: Tell me about writing for Hollywood/television. Do you feel a bit like Joe Kavalier – trying to take what tends to be a formulaic and simplistic medium and turn it into something greater?

Michael: I think movies are amazing…not simplistic at all. But it is a different medium. One of my great joys is that of description, and obviously that isn’t really a screenwriter’s job. It’s a tight and sometimes constricting medium…but, you know, it’s a challenge. And we need the health insurance.

Magdalena: You’ve mentioned in an interview about a year and a half ago that you were planning to adapt K&C into a Hollywood screenplay. How is that coming along?

Michael: Great. We’ve done about 6 drafts, and we’re close. I hope to God we’re close.

Magdalena: What were or are the main challenges of taking a large, literary piece of work like yours and simplifying it into the visual medium of film?

Michael:Well the story had to be substantially altered. Narrowed. Made more focused. I changed a lot, and I’m very glad that I was the one to do it.

Magdalena: Do you think that a film of K&C will be made?

Michael: Definitely. Knock wood.

Magdalena: Are there some still some themes/storylines that you are dying to get your literary teeth into?

Michael: Many, but that’s my secret…

Magdalena: You’ve been very open about your “failed novel’, Fountain City. You put so much time into it. Do you think you might begin working on it again at some point in the future?

Michael: No. I dumped it because it sucked. There’s no reason to get back to it. You’ve got to trust me. It wasn’t worth it.

Magdalena: What’s next? Can you give us a hint about the next Chabon project?

Michael: Hmmm…a tiny one. It’s a thriller. Set in Alaska.