Benjamin Alire Saenz

I’m an ex-Catholic priest. I have such a complex relationship to Catholicism. On the one hand, if I called myself a Catholic it would have to be a very unorthodox one, as I just don’t believe all of the teachings of the Church. But on the other hand, I’m an educated man because the Catholic Church educated me. It gave me something that is really important to me. So I always think about my faith. I always have it, and sometimes I can’t talk about it, and sometimes I can. I am like an adolescent in that way. Teens are asking questions: who is God and what does it mean to have faith?

It’s a complex thing when you’re writing a novel, because so much of it is conscious and planned and deliberate, and so much of it is not, and it has to be a dance between the conscious and the unconscious. I bring my best instincts to my work. For instance – and I come by this naturally, or I think I do – I am a very good judge of character.

We have this huge discourse on family in this country, but no one deconstructs it the same way. People talk about “the American family.” The right wing has this thing – Focus on the Family. What the hell is that? I don’t want to just discuss the issues – I want family to be a real part of the character of the novels I write, and I don’t like to write things that feel like issue books.

For a moment, I thought of the word happy and it was a word that just, well, it felt like it was visiting me. I knew it wouldn’t last for very long and I’d be sad again and then it would be worse because it’s one thing to be sad and it’s another thing to be sad once you’ve been happy. Being sad after you’ve been happy is the worst thing in the world.