I find the middle classes kind of boring. The middle class has kind of been beaten like a dead horse by fictional writers. It's old news, and literature is supposed to bring new news, and for me, I feel I have to go as far out as I can to try and tell the kind of stories I want to tell.
From George Martin's classically inspired production of the Beatles to Peter Gabriel's early solo masterpieces, to Stereolab's beautiful loops and blips, U.K.-based bands have often found a way to squeeze warmth and compassion from the stone-cold - especially now that the tubes are gone - machinery of the recording studio.
As a story writer, you have work with sharp but relatively small tools, the picks of metaphor, the shovel blade of images, the trowel of point of view, and then you delicately lift and brush in the revision with love and care knowing that one slip, and you might damage an extremely delicate thing.
I'm not sure if a writer should talk about themes. Themes arrive out of the deeper structure and concerns, but to me, the main thing is getting it down right, writing about specific characters in specific predicaments, and finding a way to be true to the story itself, not only in the first burst of draft but in the revision, too.
I think a good story can do as much as a novel; not the exact same thing, of course, but just as much artistically. They're different beasts, but to tackle an expansive country like the United States, you're either going to write a big novel, or go in to various points on the map and write stories or poems.
I'm not at all interested in simply reporting what's here right now, or cranking out an entertainment device that's going to touch the widest number of people. I'm interested in digging and excavating as deep as I can go into those small eternal moments and how they expand out, or close in, on the lives of my characters.
You don't know what you need when you're a young writer. You can get small slivers of critical input, advice, comments, but if you're deep in the perplexity of your own process, as you should be, sorting it out in your own way, nothing is going to guide you more than small gestures of encouragement.