David Duchovny on his new novel, romance, and reconnecting with ex Téa Leoni
The actor's third novel, 'Miss Subways,' is generating strong reviews
Despite its surreal premise, the third novel by X-Files star David Duchovny is a cleverly romantic love story. Miss Subways, which was published earlier this month, reimagines the Irish mythological character of Emer as a young woman living a typically modern New York life: buying ice cream from the corner bodega, shacking up with her boyfriend in tight quarters, and yes, taking the subway. Duchovny populates her fairy-tale-esque world with various mythical figures and traces her journey across time toward true love.
This is not Duchovny’s first novel, but judging by the early reception, it may be his most celebrated. And it has a personal backstory too: Duchovny recorded the audiobook version with his whole family, including ex-wife Téa Leoni. EW caught up with Duchovny on that and more about his process writing and publishing Miss Subways, and why it felt like a story he needed to tell. Read on below, where you can also listen to an exclusive clip from the audiobook, and purchase your copy here.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Miss Subways is about a present-day couple who get involved in a wager with mythological figures. What inspired you to write this story?
DAVID DUCHOVNY: It all started around 1985. I was a graduate student at Yale, and somebody dragged me to see a Yeats play called The Only Jealousy of Emer. The basis of the story is the idea that to save the person you love, you’re going to have to deny that love. It seemed to be a very kind of dramatic and romantic setup. It always stuck with me. And I guess it took about 30 years to get it out on paper. [Laughs]
The inner monologues of the protagonist, Emer, are very believable. How did you channel this female point of view?
I don’t know. To me, that’s what art is about. I’m less about trying to figure out who deserves to write someone’s experience and more about trying to get into each other’s shoes. Trying to grow empathy, really.
There are lots of statements on current pop culture in the book. Are these your actual opinions?
[Laughs] The ones that are going to make me enemies are [Emer’s] opinions; the ones that are going to make me friends are mine. In the past, one’s readership would have had access to the Bible. That would have been where the writer provided common ground to his readers. Now I think it’s pop culture: That’s our shared Bible.
What is your writing process?
I like to wake up very early, like 4 or 4:30, to write because usually by noon I’m pretty much done with my imaginative energy. I’m not a really good plotter or structural guy, so I’ll get impatient. I just wrote the first chapter and it told me a lot about what the story was going to be. When I start writing I’ll start to hear the voices, and then they’ll tell me where I need to go.
You recorded the audiobook with your kids and former wife. How was that?
It was fun! There’s so much spoken by a woman in this, and I said, “Well, I’ll ask Téa and see if she’ll do it,” and she said she’d love to. My daughter is acting now, and I thought, “She’s SAG, I should give her a job.” And then Téa said, “Well, if West is gonna do it, you gotta have [son] Miller too.”
Do you consider yourself a romantic?
Yeah, I think so. If you read this book and you read Bucky [F*cking] Dent, they have happy endings because life doesn’t generally have happy endings. I’m a softy that way, so there you have it. So sue me.