Leland studied Creative Writing and Ethnic Studies at San FranciscoStateUniversity where he discovered the enormous possibilities of poetry, experimentation, and critical theory. He eventually earned an MFA in Writing from ColumbiaUniversity on a merit fellowship. He has published fiction in Open City, Fence, Dark Sky Magazine, Drunken Boat, and Monkey Bicycle, among other literary journals. He is also the project director for an upcoming literary event series, Phantasmagoria: Language and Technology of Suffering, for which he received fiscal sponsorship from the New York Foundation for the Arts. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.
About the book:
Is Epstein a despicable man?
He’s certainly trying desperately at something. When his wife disappears he’s frantic to talk to his daughter. But what can he tell her? There must be a reason and he’s all but sure about the gruesome answer. Can he protect Sylvia from the truth, from her terrible lineage and, ultimately, from himself?
Off-beat and sordid, The Blood Poetry is a twisted, yet honest look at our desire to connect with others and the ways in which we are often stymied by our own efforts to get closer. Epstein is a curious mix of monster and romantic struggling to maintain a shred of dignity in his dingy, beat down world.
What was your inspiration for The Blood Poetry?
The title of my novel, The Blood Poetry, came to me quite a while after I finished several drafts. I plucked the title from a line in the novel where an evangelical preacher of a church led by conjoined-twins who date back to the Civil War, refers to his sermon as “blood poetry.” That seemed very fitting to me as a title. The novel literally and symbolically revolves around “blood”—as nutrients for the undead characters; the blood of explicit and implicit violence; and, perhaps most importantly, blood as the central metaphor for “family and lineage” which, for the main character, is the source of his suffering. Also, as a fiction writer and reader, I’m very drawn to voice and adroit uses of language—not simply lyricism, but the odd ways one can craft language to demonstrate a character’s state of mind; the manipulation of cadence and tempo to convey tension rather than relying on plot; and, when it comes down to it, I like reading other writers who invent bizarre ways of narrating because it feels like I’m being invited into a really strange and, maybe, dangerous place.
Tell us something about your hero and/or heroine that my readers won’t be able to resist.
I don’t think there are any true heroes in my book. The protagonist ultimately transforms into an “anti-hero.” He’s our narrator, our vehicle into the novel’s world, and the character with whom a reader may feel very conflicted empathizing. I hope he’s more complicated than simply being despicable—he is, in fact, empathetic, too; pretty funny, vulnerable, and victimized; and really does have a sincere interest in the wellbeing of his daughter, Sylvia. The question is: Can he overcome all the uglier elements of his personality?
Is there a villain or villainess in your story? Tell us about him/her.
Although I just described Epstein as an anti-hero, the villain that he reveals to us as the epitome of evil is Professor Applebaum—his mother’s boyfriend during Epstein’s childhood. Professor Applebaum—as a bloodsucker and stand-in for forces which terrify us most as children—transforms Epstein’s mother into “a monster.” He observes—and is complicit—in the suffering that Applebaum imposes on victims. Although our main character was a child during that time, the fact that he was complicit in the pain of other people devastates him. Epstein is not, at his core, an evil man.
Who is your favorite character in the book and why?
I think my favorite character in the book is the daughter, Sylvia. As the writer, I was able to develop a lot of empathy for her; plus, in the beginning, she’s very rambunctious and rebellious, morphs into someone who is more introspective, but still has a lot of verve. Sections which involved her were a lot of fun to write because I allowed myself the freedom of messing with the language, as well as mimicking her internal voice. She seems to be the smartest, most empathetic, and most humane character in the novel.
What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?
I’m not totally sure, but I’ve always liked the opening. It begins immediately with Epstein sprinting toward Sylvia’s school—the set-up is tense, and I hope the language reflects that.
What do you love most about being an author?
I really, really like making things up—characters, worlds, and voices. And it’s always exhilarating to affect people who appreciate dark fiction in a meaningful, impactful way.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell my readers?
Thanks for still finding wonder in the world of words.
Author’s twitter: @lpitttsgonzalez
Author’s facebook: www.facebook.com/TheBloodPoetry
Link to excerpt: www.goodreads.com/book/show/15727062-the-blood-poetry
Link to purchase page: www.amazon.com/gp/product/1935738259
Link to book trailer: