“I think most fiction is fundamentally about people who, in one way or another, are both insiders and outsiders at the same time. Kush—who’s half-Armenian and half-white—is destined for it. He’s got the privilege of access to this place, but feels othered by his bicultural life. I wanted a narrator who felt like a visitor in his own home. He can’t put his finger on why. He feels like he’s living in the wrong place, and then he thinks he was born at the wrong time in history: he listens to music from the 60s and 70s, he wishes he were alive during a more politically-engaged era, he believes he could’ve been a man of significance in a different set of circumstances.”
Italo Calvino never visited China, though Invisible Cities does. Franz Kafka and Saul Bellow never visited locations that featured prominently in their novels. Even Shakespeare is guilty: his biographers have found no evidence of him ever leaving England, and so his myriad works set in Italy must have been based on speculation and research. While there is a concern that not researching a place can lead to a writer fetishizing or misrepresenting it, the facts stand that often writers are more than able to get away with it.