If you talk to geneticists they are constantly finding that your genes are being switched on and off because of the environment. Genes alone do not determine an exact path in your life.
At the same time, it's a family story and more of an epic. I needed the third-person. I tried to give a sense that Cal, in writing his story, is perhaps inventing his past as much as recalling it.
Jacques Derrida is a very important thinker and philosopher who has made serious contributions to both philosophy and literary criticism. Roland Barthes is the one I feel most affinity for, and Michel Foucault, well, his writing influenced my novel, 'Middlesex.'
I think the suicides in my first book came from the idea of growing up in Detroit. If you grow up in a city like that you feel everything is perishing, evanescent and going away very quickly.
I approach writing female characters the same why I approach writing male characters. I never think I'm writing about women, I think I'm writing about one woman, one person. And I try to imagine what she is like, and endow her with a lot of my own thoughts and history.
Some Pulitzer winners - novelists - have confided to me that getting the prize screwed them up. It messed with their heads. That hasn't been my experience.