Vice: Let’s get back on track here. I guess that people probe you about the autobiographical stuff so much because, when Less Than Zero came out, you were not just seen as a novelist. It was this voice-of-a-generation thing, and people lazily thought, “Well, he must be just like the people in the book because he’s their age and he shares some background details with them.” So you were marketed as a novelist but also as something more than a novelist. In a way, it was a book marketer’s dream. Is that what you meant when you talked earlier about being exploited?
Bret Easton Ellis: Well, you know, it was fun at first. It was very fun. It seemed like a good idea to be interviewed for magazines and have your picture taken and be on television and stuff. But then it stops. After about a year, it’s not a good idea anymore. Because what you realize has happened is that your identity–your real identity–is being consumed by this new narrative, this collective narrative, that’s taking place with the public as well as the press. The real you is dying and this thing that’s created is now going to be representative of you. And every time you meet someone, you know that they’re going to have this entire set of associations, mostly fake, about who you are, and that is a difficult thing to process. I’ve got to tell you, it’s a very difficult thing to kind of dismantle and work with.
Vice: I’m sure.
Bret Easton Ellis: You’ve got to become friends with it. That’s the only way you can make it work. You can’t fight it. But it makes things difficult. It makes relationships difficult. It makes forming friendships difficult. It’s an added layer of alienation that, you know, is a bummer.
Bret Easton Ellis: It’s mostly been a series of hassles. But you kind of just deal with it. You write books, and you’re writing books for a publishing house–this entity that is paying the bills, in a way. And you’re going to help with processes like making them their money back. But did I ever feel exploited by all of that? No. I felt like I was totally going along with everything, and I felt that it was a good idea. I think I handled it pretty well, but after the initial year, year and a half, then it got kind of scary. I thought, “Oh, this is not good.”
Vice: I could see it being difficult not to play into it a little bit when you’ve been handed a role and it’s working so well.
Bret Easton Ellis: Hey, when you’re 21 years old... But it’s weird because I grew up around famous people. And me and my “cooler friends” thought it was kind of a joke. It was like we were above it. We’d be at people’s parents’ parties and there’d be very famous actors hanging out by the pool or whatever, and we always thought: “Lame. Really lame.” And so the idea of becoming a sort of celebrity… it was this weird thing that just kind of happened. Like I watched it unfold and didn’t really participate in the building of it.