Excerpts from the interview:
I'm interested in the idea that most of us have our rational objections to notions of irrationality, yet we have a point where we might accept certain things that can only be apprehended irrationally, and we shuttle back and forth as we try to process experiences somewhere between those two positions. The fascination for me is in the shuttling, the capacity we have to whiz back and forth and not resolve things, and live with ambiguity. If you don't resolve this issue, then you leave the energy of that movement intact in a story. If in telling a story I was to come down on one side in a science-fictional sense and offer a rational solution or framework, I would kill that movement.
When I'm writing the books, their register keeps changing. I'm not one of these writers where you get a very similar book each time. People have observed (or complained, I'm not sure which) that when they crack open a Graham Joyce book, they're never sure what they're going to get. That is because I don't know either. Sometimes when I'm on a dark track, I can't seem to get the warmth and humor back where I want to be. But with the new one, The Facts of Life, I think I'm back where I want to be with that horror and humor. You have to make sure one doesn't cancel the other out, because you're in danger of sentimentalizing on the one hand and portraying life as far too bleak on the other.
The little girl in Dark Sister is rather an idealized picture, and I think in that idealization there must have been a kind of yearning. I now have a five-year-old, the same age as that child. She's gorgeous and I get all giddy thinking about her, and she's a savage monster as well. I have a notion that every family is dysfunctional. Like most people, you think there's an ideal platonic family somewhere, who knows how to do things. Like on Oprah, the whole thing is predicated on the idea, 'We can get there if we talk about it enough, if we listen to our inner angels....' Stop, please! In all the families I know, there are different elements of dysfunctionality. To be human is to be dysfunctional.
The book I've just turned in, The Facts of Life, is set in Coventry immediately after the Blitz, after the war, when they're rebuilding the city. It was almost completely flattened. Before the war, Coventry was a medieval and Georgian showplace town. In the medieval period, it was the third most significant city in England, with a huge cathedral. It got completely leveled. It's a planners' disaster now, just thrown up after the war. There was a vision for it, but it was compromised all the way. I've been using that as a kind of metaphor for a choice of values as you're growing up.