Small Talk: Bret Easton Ellis

Bret Easton Ellis was five years old when he knew he was going to be a writer. At the age of 21 he published his first novel, Less Than Zero (1985), about a gaggle of wealthy California teenagers, and entered the US’s literary “brat pack” of controversial young authors. Probably his most famous novel is American Psycho (1991), the gruesome tale of Patrick Bateman, a Manhattan businessman by day and serial killer by night, which was made into a film in 2000. Born in Los Angeles in 1964, Ellis still lives in the city.

Who is your perfect reader?


What is the last thing you read that made you laugh out loud?

A negative tweet about myself.

What is your writing routine?

I work office hours – nine to five or 10 to six. I keep the same hours as my friends who have real jobs, so I can see them in the evenings.

What is the strangest thing you’ve done when researching one of your books?

Listening to every record Genesis ever made while working on American Psycho.

Who are your literary influences?

Ernest Hemingway, Joan Didion, Raymond Carver, Don DeLillo, Philip Roth, Stephen King.

Who would you choose to play you in a film about your life?

Someone impossibly good-looking. Robert Pattinson for my younger years – and then Mel Gibson.

When do you feel most free?

Either when I’m writing or when I’m having sex.

What book do you wish you’d written?

Sentimental Education by Flaubert. I think it’s a book I could have written whereas I could never have done something like The Great Gatsby.

How do you relax?


What is the best piece of advice a parent gave you?

My father said to me: “Stop taking this all so damn seriously.”

What are you most proud of writing?

“In the Islands” and “On the Beach”, two stories from The Informers [Ellis’s 1994 short-story collection]. I’m proud of them for some reason I can’t explain.

How would you earn your living if you had to give up writing?

I’d be a musician. I play the piano and keyboards.

What does it mean to be a writer?

Can you put: he just laughed and then broke into sobs? It’s a way of making sense of the world and of myself.

Bret Easton Ellis’s latest novel is ‘Imperial Bedrooms’ (Picador)

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