Watkins’s debut [''Cali-Cli-Fi''] novel ''Gold - Fame - Citrus'' -- the three things that attracted Easterners and Midwesterners to California in the early days -- has a knockout of a premise, Annie Proulx meets Joan Didion meets ''Mad Max. ''
 Watkins spoke with Gawker last week on the telephone: FULL TEXT AT:

Gawker: One of the things I loved most about this book is that it seemed so anti-ideological.
Claire Vaye Watkins: I went in that direction as a way to fend off what I don’t really like about environmental literature, or whatever you want to call it—books that are interested in the natural world, what we do to the land and water. It seems like it’s really easy for those books to slip right into a kind of lecture. Even with writers who I really admire, like Ed Abbey—there’s no secret to what he thinks we should do about Telluride.
And that works for him. But I don’t have that approach. I don’t think I have any kind of answers to these questions—or any answers to these questions. So a position of swagger or preachiness, even a sort of nail-biting position, didn’t appeal to me. I wanted the characters to be allowed to be fatigued with these questions. We already are, and we haven’t even lived it, as they have.
But for a time I was trying to understand what those characters would think if they were reading an op-ed in the Times about water, for example. And then, when I was actually going on and on about some op-ed about water, my husband said something, a line that I eventually stole and put in the book: “You’ve heard that dissertation.” I was like, “That’s it.”
Op-eds just don’t apply in the book’s world. The characters aren’t hopeless, but they’re essentially doomed—and were already, in ways unrelated to the drought. At one point Luz thinks about how her “finest lover and best friend was a murderer and always would be.” She herself chose not to evacuate. She’s fatalistic in an instinctive, unshowy way. I loved that.
It’s handy to put a young woman protagonist in this hopeless landscape. My experience of being in my early twenties was pretty bleak for no good reason, or I guess some good reasons—but maybe it’s just a developmental stage that you have to go through, a time when you feel like you don’t have a lot to look forward to. And I think a lot of young women feel this way. Joan Didion has been praised and criticized for this type of portrayal of femininity in young women, but for me it rings very true.
Every once in awhile, I hear some feedback that people would like this female protagonist to be more “active,” with the scare quotes. I’ve thought a lot about that response, and I mostly envy it. A character like Luz is trapped by her circumstances, by her own self, and by the confluence of the two. And when somebody says she should take more control, I just think—how great to be able to say that. How nice that you’ve never felt powerless, or experienced those restrictions.