“The nihilistic, drugged-out characters of Less Than Zero pushed teen angst to a whole new level of depravity. Published before Bret Easton Ellis was even out of college, the book (and later its loosely adapted film) was an instant success. He has since continued to populate his bleak literary landscape with dissatisfied and often violent characters in The Rules of Attraction and American Psycho, and has playfully examined his own morals in a mock-autobiographical horror novel, Lunar Park. Now, 25 years after Less Than Zero, Ellis returns to Los Angeles to pick up the story in Imperial Bedrooms, where he imagines what his malcontent teens would be like in middle age. He chatted with Goodreads about why there’s a piece of himself in every one of his characters.
Goodreads: Given the ’80s zeitgeist-touching status of Less Than Zero, Imperial Bedrooms is heavily anticipated by both fans of your work and detractors of sequels. Are you feeling more pressure than usual with this book release?
Bret Easton Ellis: Feeling pressure suggests that the person I’m writing the book for is an audience. I’m actually obsessed with the material, and I’m writing the book for myself. I emotionally become involved in an idea. It took me three years to write the shortest book of my career because I was interested in the story. Now it’s going out into the world. It is what it is, and what will happen, will happen. I do think, however, that some readers will definitely feel betrayed because Less Than Zero, as an artifact, is beloved in a way. People have a lot of strong associations with it. It is one of the first novels they read, or it is one of the first novels they read as a teenager. I think a lot of people are expecting Less Than Zero 2: The Party Continues. And that’s just not what I felt it would be. I hate to think of Imperial Bedrooms as a sequel. I wasn’t thinking “sequel” as I wrote it. I was really just thinking about Clay and where he’d be if he came back to L.A.Lunar Park, I reread Less Than Zero for the first time in what must have been 17 or 18 years. I became obsessed with this idea: “Where is Clay now?” I had to find out where he was—emotionally. And that’s shaded a little bit by where you are in your life, too. If you’re super-happy, then maybe Imperial Bedrooms would have been a different book. I don’t know, but obviously it was a bit of a dark period, and I think that’s reflected in Imperial Bedrooms.”