Book Talk: Bret Easton Ellis on the lottery of success

Wed Oct 27, 2010 11:03am EDT
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By Josie Cox

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Born and raised in a wealthy California neighborhood, Bret Easton Ellis always thought he would join a band rather than write a decade-defining psychological thriller.

The novel -- "American Psycho" -- gives a chilling first-person account of yuppie-turned serial killer Patrick Bateman's crimes. It generated a wave of controversy and outrage when it was published in 1991, triggering many prospective publishers to distance themselves from the grisly novel.

Almost 20 years later, the 46-year-old was one of the stars of this month's Frankfurt Book Fair where he promoted his seventh novel, "Imperial Bedrooms" -- a bleak, post-modern sequel to his 1985-bestseller "Less Than Zero."

Ellis spoke to Reuters about his life, career and American Psycho.

Q: You have published seven books, many of which have been made into films. American Psycho has become one of the century's literary classics. What's the secret to literary success?

A: There is no secret to literary success. It's all down to faith and luck. When I was 18 or 20, all of my friends were writers. All the writers hung out in groups and cliques. This guy called Erik was the best writer. He was always destined to be a famous best-seller. Now you might ask who Erik is now. He never made it. My book Less Than Zero on the other hand, which was originally a project I had been doing for class, was plucked out by my teacher and got published.

Less Than Zero became really successful and Erik was really angry. My writing broke up a lot of my friendships, not just my friendship with Erik. I never saw my writing as a career though, only a hobby, and that's why I don't regret the fact that it ruined a lot of friendships.

If I could go back, I wouldn't do anything differently. I always used writing as a means of relieving pain and that's why I was always drawn to writing. Although I always thought I would be in a band, I always wrote books on the side. I never expected anyone to read them though, and then they obviously did.   Continued...