Everyone thinks they know or understand his or her neighbors, which sometimes results in people putting on a façade for one another

Ivy Pochoda grew up in Brooklyn, New York in a house filled with books. She is the author of the novel The Art of Disappearing, which was published in 2009 by St. Martin’s Press. Visitation Street is her second novel.

Why did you choose to locate the story in Red Hook?

I grew up in Brooklyn not too far away from Red Hook. So many of smells, sounds, and sensations of summer (please excuse that alliteration) must have been ingrained in me. When I started to write I was determined to convey that lazy summer feeling of other people’s street noise that drifted in through all of the open windows of my childhood. When I was growing up much of my spare time was spent outdoors playing on the street—epic, block-long water fights, baseball games, feeble attempts (at least on my part) at skateboarding. So I spent a lot of time thinking about the way summer sounded and went from there.

When I started writing Visitation Street, I primarily set it in the bar where I spent way too much time. For me—and for better or for worse—this was the nexus of my Red Hook. It was a real meeting place, a melting pot of people from all walks of life—something you simply don’t see anymore in properly gentrified Brooklyn. I thought about how the bar sounded from the inside, how it sounded to those passing by, and how it sounded filtered across the street into my apartment.

But soon my story led me outside of the bar and took me deeper into the community than I had been before. And I was able to extend my own experiences of growing up in Brooklyn to those of my characters.

The novel is filled with lonely people suffering from guilt and surrounded by ghosts. Do you talk to the dead?

Well I guess the truthful answer to that question is that I’d like to. I don’t. I think that if I could believe or confirm the phantasmagoric it would answer questions I have about the depth and breadth of the natural world. I’m like Cree that way. I want so badly to believe, but I’m hemmed in by reality. So that’s why I write!

We let people imagine who we are and we keep the truth for ourselves. Is it the moral of this story?

I’m not sure that it’s a moral so much as a universal truth about the nature of some of friendships forged in the community I wrote about. Everyone thinks they know or understand his or her neighbors, which sometimes results in people putting on a façade for one another. When I lived in Red Hook I spent a lot of time drinking in at the bar one which I based the Dockyard. At night, everyone was my friend, but I always wondered how well we knew each other.

There are some beautiful lines about murals. Do you like this kind of street art?

I really do. I live in The Arts District in Los Angeles which is famous for its amazing street art. There are literally hundreds of murals painted on old warehouses. It makes the streets so vibrant and full of life in what might otherwise seem like a desolate neighborhood.

Are there any other women who write noir fiction about disadvantaged areas in NYC?

I’m not sure. I can’t think of any!