Jeff Glor talks to Matt Ruff about "The Mirage", a novel that delivers an alternate history of 9/11 and its aftermath.
Jeff Glor: What inspired you to write the book?
Matt Ruff: I wanted to tell a story that would allow me to explore the political and moral issues around the U.S. response to 9/11 from a unique perspective. I also wanted to give a central role to the folks who've borne the brunt of the War on Terror -- the vast majority of Muslims who aren't terrorists, and whose only crime is being the wrong kind of people at the wrong moment in history. And because I'm a big speculative fiction fan, the way I chose to do that was by taking a classic, 9/11-themed thriller and setting it in a world where the U.S. and the Middle East have essentially traded places.
JG: What surprised you most during the writing?
MR: The biggest surprise was that it worked. As I was reminded whenever I told people what I was writing, this was sort of a crazy, scary idea for a novel. It's got a mostly Arab Muslim cast of characters who I want American readers to identify with and care about, at the same time I'm raising these provocative questions about terrorism and religion and American exceptionalism, and also trying to keep the story fast-paced and exciting. Which is a tall order, and there were times, particularly early on, when I wasn't sure I was going to be able to pull it off. And of course it remains to be seen what the public reaction will be, but I'm really pleased with the way it turned out.
JG: What would you be doing if you weren't a writer?
MR: Living under a bridge, probably. I decided to be a writer when I was very young, and never really had a plan B.
JG: What else are you reading right now?
MR: I'm rereading Lawrence Wright's "The Looming Tower" to refresh my memory about the real-world history of 9/11.
JG: What's next for you?
MR: I haven't decided for sure what I'm going to write next. But the leading contender -- the idea that makes me the most nervous, in a good way -- is a story called "Lovecraft Country." It's a historical horror novel about a black travel writer living in the Jim Crow era.
For more on "The Mirage" visit the Harper Collin's website