The Millions: Do you have a threshold for craziness? Have you ever maybe started a story and then realized that the person wasn’t crazy enough or the topic wasn’t weird enough?
Jon Ronson: Yes. I once spent three months trying to write a book about the credit card industry. This was before the crash, and my editor always reminds me that if I had carried on with the book it would have come out when the crash happened. But the problem was that I wrote the piece “Who Killed Richard Cullen” [about a man in crippling debt] which is in Lost at Sea and became really fascinated with the credit industry and wanted to expand the story into a book. Now that one story took me six months to write, and then I spent the next three months figuring out how to expand it onto a book and basically what I realized was that all these people who work in the credit industry – the list brokers, all these people who’ve got these devious tricks to keep us ensnared – are a) really important and doing really malevolent things, but b) so boring, that it was kind of impossible to write about them in any kind of entertaining way. So I say in The Psychopath Test — and it’s really kind of a wrench in my heart, this line – if you want to get away with wielding true malevolent power, be boring, because we want to look good as writers, so we want our prose to be colorful and exciting. We don’t get there with list brokers, or credit people, because they’re so dull.
Read more: “Addicted to Weird: An Interview with Jon Ronson.”