Without further ado, I will hand you over to William:
I used to be an actor, mostly because it terrified me. A surprising number of theater folk are actually closet introverts. I wanted to know how to talk to people, how to talk in front of people, so naturally I threw myself into the most terrifying, sink-or-swim circumstances requiring those skills.
I did the same thing with roller coasters. I hate roller coasters. They are not thrilling to me. They are torturous. As a kid I went on all of them, usually twice, just to prove that I could. It was a kind of quiet, childish machismo—quiet because I never told anyone that I was terrified. I just stood in line and faced the cruel indifference of physics and gravity on rickety, obviously rusting metal frames. This was never, ever fun. Theatre, at least, turned out to be fun. I learned how to ride the exhilarating wave of stage-fright and enjoy it like I will never enjoy roller coasters.
I became an actor because it scared me, and because I wanted to be inside a story. I wanted to keep playing pretend, to do something ridiculous with absolute seriousness the way only children are really allowed to do. I think my lifelong ambition was to guest-star on The Muppet Show. Instead I wrote a novel about a goblin theatre troupe. Close enough.
Bits of theatrical history and folklore gave the book shape. I wanted to know why everyone from Plato to the Puritans have tried to shut down theatre entirely, and why every backstage space is said to be haunted, and why "break a leg" means "good luck." I wanted to know why we first started carving masks, why it mattered to give something not-ourselves a face and a name—and then to wear that face and name.
I didn't find answers, but I did find something else when I strung all those questions together and followed their trail: I found a story that I wanted to be in, one that scared me to tell. I hope that the fear and the fun are both contagious, just as they are onstage—and just as they are not on roller coasters.
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