Meade is nineteen and living in Paris with her twin brother, Ben Ho, far from their
privileged upbringing in Nashville, Tennessee. Hers is a restless quest of balancing
addictions: to her brother, her pills and her purging. But when Ben Ho falls for a girl at
art school, Meade's precarious equilibrium is shaken.
Meade descends into a vortex of glamour and passion with the fashion photographer who
becomes her lover. As her sexual obsession shifts from her brother to her troubled Iranian
lover, Meade cannot know she has made a tragic match with someone whose secrets go further,
deeper and darker than anything she can fathom.
A stark, unflinching novel with a dark heart, Comes the Night chronicles a fevered
and tormented journey through the frothy, glossy world of fashion and the shadowy recesses
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the Night - the author Hollis
Hampton Jones reads an extract, with music by Christopher Ryan Norris.
Comes the Night is your second novel. How did you find the experience of writing
it, in comparison to writing Vicious Spring?
The biggest difference in my experience of writing these two novels was in terms of the
research involved. Vicious Spring was set in Nashville, so I could do all my
research from home base, but it was quite a strange feeling to tuck my children in at
night and then go out to strip clubs to interview the dancers and observe the atmosphere
and inner-workings of the clubs. With Comes the Night, most of my research was done
in Paris, so I was far from my family. This allowed me to work in a more focussed way, but
in short, concentrated intervals. The writing process itself was similar for me with both
novels: I knew where the stories were heading, but mostly I write in a dreamlike state
that relies more on the subconscious than on outlines.
Both of your novels are about young, vulnerable girls. What sort of relationship
do you have with your characters? Do you feel protective over them in some
way? Or do they express elements of your former self?
This is a difficult question for me to answer, because my characters are very
mysterious to me. I almost feel that they are taking me for a ride. Certainly there must
be aspects of my own vulnerability as a teenager contained in them, but maybe more
pointedly they are an expression of my fears for my children.
What made you decide to write about twins?
I hadn’t initially intended to write about twins. During one of my early research trips
to Paris, I went to a party where I met a male and a female twin. Late in the evening,
they started dancing together, and I was very struck by their relationship. They didn’t
seem like a brother and sister dancing, nor did they seem quite like lovers. I couldn’t
stop thinking about them and soon realized that this relationship was really at the core
of what I wanted to write.
Meade’s world is in many ways an introspective one but around her the reader
feels the shadows of world events such as the Iraq war. How much do you think
Meade’s story is rooted in its time, and how much does it come from her very
particular experiences and way of looking at the world?
I actually think that Meade’s story is in many ways very rooted in its time. I feel
the Bush years, for myself and many Americans, were a time of massive anxiety. It
felt to me that events were spinning out of control, and that, particularly with Iraq, we
were suddenly involved in a completely unjustifiable war. When the torture at Abu
Graib was revealed, most people just accepted it. Anger and tensions developed with
many friends who disagreed with me in a much more visceral way than any other
political situation that I’ve lived through. Lots of Americans became very fear-based
in their thinking. An atmosphere existed that I think resulted in this sort of vague,
unspecified sense of panic. I feel that Meade represents this out-of-control,
Comes the Night is very evocative and atmospheric and its Parisian setting
an important part in setting the tone of the novel. Was it difficult to achieve this
all the way from Nashville?
No, because I made seven trips to Paris! Those trips were integral to the writing. I
never wrote while I was actually in Paris, other than jotting down thoughts and
images. I couldn’t be away from home for too long at a time, so I just absorbed all the
experiences that I could while I was in Paris so that I could easily transport myself
back there when writing in Nashville. I also took a lot of photos, and they were
helpful to me.
Like Meade, you did some modelling when you lived in Paris. What sort of
experiences did you have, and how do you think modelling has changed since
In Paris I had an agent who would squeeze my thighs to show me where they were too
fat. He would take groups of newly-arrived models out to dinner and order for them,
depending on their weight. I remember that he wouldn’t let me eat the cous-cous and
lamb that I wanted; I only got a salad. I quit soon thereafter – I had gone to Paris to
study, not to model – but these experiences fed the whole eating disorder aspect to the
story. I did most of my modelling in Atlanta, and I started working at the age of
fourteen, so I think the whole physical judgement thing was pretty deeply imprinted in
me. Most fourteen-year-olds aren’t terribly comfortable with their bodies to begin
with; it was a vulnerable age for me to, in a sense, sell my body.
I was shocked when I went backstage at the runway shows in Paris to see how much
thinner the girls are now than at the time I was modelling. I found most of them to be
scarily, upsettingly thin.
Can you tell us some more about the research that you did for Comes the
I did a lot of research while working on the book, and it’s an aspect of writing that I
really enjoy. I like to meet people and hear their stories, I like to explore, I like to
open myself to new experiences. I never know exactly which experiences will land in
the book, but it becomes apparent as I’m writing. But the basic components of my
research were obvious: going to fashion shoots and shows, visiting the Ecole-de
Beaux-Arts, and interviewing a former Evin prisoner who now lives in Paris. He was
very generous in sharing his stories with me, which were so upsetting that I was
Which authors have most influenced and inspired you?
Salinger, Nabokov’s Lolita, and, though my own writing is pretty much the
opposite of his, Tolstoy.
What have you been reading recently?
John Cheever’s and Eudora Welty’s short stories.
Can you tell us anything about what you’re planning to write next?
I’m a bit superstitious about revealing too much during this phase of the writing, but
this novel examines the culturally shifting world of Atlanta around 1970 and is told
from the perspective of a child.