“Dixon tells Jane that he wants to demonstrate the futility of Evil. Was that your goal as well?

“For me, Bad Monkeys is more about demonstrating the glamour of evil. Just as the novel tells you up front what the white room is, Jane tells you repeatedly what she is–but the way that she does it causes you to continuously draw the wrong conclusion. Jane lies, and you know she lies, but still you trust her. She kills, and steals, and commits other wicked acts, and yet despite this mountain of evidence you believe that she’s really a good person at heart. She tells you that she’s a bad seed, and instead of backing away you drop your guard. That’s the glamour of evil.

“Do you like Jane?

“Of course I like Jane. I like Tony Soprano and Hannible Lector, too. But liking someone doesn’t change what they are. The key to dispelling the glamour of evil is to not confuse charisma with virtue.

“Your author bio says that you received ‘an interesting moral education’ from your parents. Could you elaborate?”

“My parents were both good people, and I was lucky to have known them, but because they came from such different backgrounds, their approach to moral issues was very different as well.

“Dad started out as a pastor and later became a chaplain, both jobs that involve a lot of counseling, so he was a good listener and a sharp psychologist. He had definite opinions about right and wrong, and wasn’t afraid to share them, but at the same time he wasn’t particularly concerned with getting people to agree with him. If you had a problem you were struggling with, he’d give you his advice, and then it was up to you to decide what to do.

“Mom came from a missionary family. Missionaries do care whether you agree with them–getting you to agree, or at least bob your head enthusiastically, is item number one on their list of career goals. So Mom’s way of dealing with moral questions was a lot more combative, and because she was the moral enforcer in our house, I didn’t always appreciate it.

“With hindsight, I can see merit in both approaches. For working through complex issues, I still prefer my father’s low-key, thoughtful style. But when I need to draw a line and say, ‘OK, debate’s over, this is where I stand,’ that’s where my mother’s style comes into its own.” (>>)