Q & A with Bradford Tatum
Could you tell us about the inception of this novel?
I was becoming increasingly fascinated with the blossoming relationship between myself and my daughter, that’s where it began.
My wife and I had a home birth, she nursed until Sophie was five and a half and during that time the bonds between mother and daughter were very strong while I felt myself in more of a support capacity, enamored, bedazzled and smitten as I was. Providing all the love and support I could summon I still felt I provided little quantifiable sustenance. It was her mother’s time and I’m grateful for it.
But then she grew: solid food, a room of her own and I found myself showing her the world. Perhaps that’s what father’s do. Mothers bring them into the world and fathers show them the world. At any rate she was fascinating, little Sophie, her simple yet strong convictions, her unique views, her totally fresh perspective was completely new to me and I wanted to write about that, about that unique and flowering relationship.
So I killed my wife—metaphorically, of course but painfully nonetheless. It seemed the only way to give the story I wanted to tell the impetus, the deep, rare fuel it needed to succeed.
But the story began as, and still is, a love letter to the two most important females in my life.
Which has come easier for you: writing a script, or a novel? Did you have any formal training in writing?
I had no formal training in writing per se, but the two years I studied with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York more than prepared me for what was needed when looking for the truth in fiction. I can’t emphasize enough his influence on me– in living truthfully under imaginary circumstances, what he called acting, but I call art, being specific, the pinch and the ouch all the basics of his technique could be readily applied to all creative endeavors.
Even the best screenplay is a blueprint for something bigger than itself, it’s still a starting point that by design requires consensus to proceed and collaboration to be executed.
Novels, and here I might be a bit naive, but to me novels can stand alone as finished products without further realization on the part of the creator. The experience of reading them as imagined is more akin to painting or sculpture or dance–it exists on its own terms. That said the creative experience of writing a novel is more difficult for me than screenplays but far more enjoyable ultimately.
How long did it take for you to finish this book, and how much Oprah did you watch while writing it?
I watched no Oprah while writing. We don’t have commercial television in our house, only DVDs so I just used what I knew, what I feel most people know about her and experience about her. That and a lot of imagination.
The book took a while, maybe a year as I had to write it during stolen lulls in actual living. My wife was in New York at the time working on ALL MY CHILDREN and I was home with Sophie all day, homeschooling her in the mornings and then catching a few moments to write while she played or watched a DVD or something or before she needed to be fed. I can’t tell you how many paragraphs were delayed while I quickly churned out a pot of organic mac and cheese for her.
Art is a key element of your movies, and this novel as well. Can you tell us about your art, and how it influenced Brian’s outlook and works in the novel?
Art is a huge influence on the book. I was an art installer for a while in a gallery here in LA and I used to work as a chaser (cleaning up waxes before casting) for the late Robert Graham. So the fine art world is a world I’m familiar with. I also work in bronze myself and so Brian’s work is fairly close to mine–somewhat traditional, figurative, and so he has that outlook, a more classical artistic criteria based less on concept, more on technique and execution which is pretty anachronistic today. I wanted that tension there, between Chloe and Brian, her sudden and swift rise based on a completely new vision of sculpture that would be completely foreign, perhaps even threatening to him.
Can you tell us where the idea for the Mommy Machine come from?
The Mommy machine just came.
Do you have a sequel planned. Would you consider writing one, and if so, what direction do you think that would go?
I have no sequel planned but since there’s been some interest I’ve been thinking about it…
Can you tell us what you’re working on right now?
I currently working another novel, a fantastical look at old Hollywood and specifically the Universal horror genre called THE MONSTER’S MUSE.