Peter Cameron is the author of the new novel What Happens at Night. His other books include the novels Coral Glynn and Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You. He lives in New York City and Sandgate, Vermont.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for What Happens at Night?
A: The ideas for my books come from my subconscious and I spend years letting them gestate and develop (or not). So it's difficult for me to answer this question. I can only say that all my books seem to come from a combination of my experiences, my dreams, the books I have read, the art that has moved me, and the collective unconscious.
Q: The Kirkus Review of the book calls it "A dreamy fable confronting love, death, and our inevitable inadequacy yet persistence in the face of both." What do you think of that description, and what do you hope readers take away from the book?
A: I feel reviewers and readers are free to draw their own conclusions about the books I write (as long as they read them carefully). As a writer, I don't want to think about what, if any, meaning my books have. And if I had definite ideas about meaning in my books I wouldn't want to share them, because I worry that would interfere with a reader's response to the book.
I try to make my books articulate in and of themselves -- I don't want to speak for them, or about them.
I really don't have an agenda for the reader. And I wouldn't want to think that all readers take away the same thing, because I believe in the collaborative nature of reading, that each reader recreates the book in a way that is unique to them, by virtue of their particular chemistry reacting with the book's.
Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?
A: The book had another title for most of its life that it finally seemed to outgrow, so I read through it, looking for phrases that might work as titles. What Happens at Night appears a few times in the book, once in the first chapter, and then again towards the end, and I felt that it resonated with the entire book in both a literal and figurative way, and therefore seemed the right title.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm editing the film director James Ivory's memoirs, Solid Ivory. I published seven limited-edition volumes of these memoirs over the past 10 years with my Shrinking Violet Press. Farrar, Straus and Giroux will publish the memoirs in their entirety in Spring 2021 in an edition that I am editing and designing.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb