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Tom Perrotta talks about "The Leftovers"

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(Read caption) "I do enjoy writing the more extreme characters," says Perrotta, "the ones who are so caught up in their personal dramas they can’t get any perspective on themselves."

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Was it the Rapture? Suddenly, on a seemingly ordinary October day, 87 people disappear from a small New England town in Tom Perrotta's new novel The Leftovers. Perrotta’s novel follows the stories of those left behind. End-time fiction may seem an unlikely genre for Perrotta (author of "The Abstinence Teacher," "Little Children"). I asked him about this – and a few other things – in a recent interview.

Q. What inspired you to write about the Rapture in "The Leftovers?"

The original impulse came out of the research I did for "The Abstinence Teacher." I got to thinking about the Rapture, and what it might be like for contemporary secular Americans if something like that really did happen. The more I thought about it, the more interested I became – the Rapture is both a lovely and troubling image, and a surprisingly rich metaphor for growing older and living with loss. We’re all aware of the empty spaces around us, the absences that remind us of the people who are no longer there.

Q. Like the mystical Greek philosopher Apollonius of Tyana, you hold mirrors up to characters in your novels that often reveal sympathetic or brutally honest portraits. Which of these types of characters do you enjoy writing about the most and who would you say are among your favorite characters in your books?

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