Ultimately, with the assistance of letters from Governor Zell Miller of Georgia and poet Alan Ginsberg â€” "I had to be very un-English and just tell people that I really needed their help â€¦ people were very, very kind" â€” she managed to gather enough documentation about her extraordinary talent to be given a green card. Her admittance to the United States made national news; the Wall Street Journal reported on it as an example of the country's questionable moral values.
At the same time, Griffith was dealing with another development in her personal life that she had never expected. In 1993 â€” the same week that her first novel came out â€” she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. "Happy March, that was," she quipped. In Always, for the first time in print, she writes about a character with MS.
"It's a bit disturbing, but it's probably time to start talking about it," Griffith said, "because it's so large in my life." These days her health is variable, but MS does limit her. "I've been diagnosed 14 years now. I'm doing pretty well â€¦ but you know, having MS really sucks. I can't do aikido anymore. I can't teach self-defense really. I can't travel nearly as much as I would like in support of my books."
Those limitations, though, don't stop her from writing. She envisions the Aud books as a four- or five-book series: "I have a notion of where I would like to leave things, that she wouldn't be dead, by the way. Not like all the other bloody action heroes who get killed off. â€¦ But I don't think I'm ready to do any more Aud just yet."
In the meantime, she has other ideas she'd like to explore, including a fantasy novel and a historical novel set in seventh-century England, but she admitted that every time she changes genres in fiction, publishers aren't quite sure what to do with her. She has been asked if she will write noir now, as the Aud books have been categorized as noir, but Griffith sees them differently.
"Noir to me is very claustrophobic; it's kind of like the horror fiction of the crime genre," Griffith said. "You know, everybody loses in the end. â€¦ I can't be dealing with that. Aud isn't like that. Aud's full of hope."
Among Griffith's favorite books are Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander, Mary Renault's historical novels about Greece, and some of Sarah Waters' Victorian novels. "Sometimes when I read, honestly, I want vivid and burly and fun," Griffith said.
"I don't always want to read about anguished people. And the thing about something like Always is Aud does get anguished, but she has an enormous amount of fun â€” I mean, all the aikido and the food and the sex and the â€” you know, to me, the Aud books essentially are a blast â€¦ hopefully a meaningful blast, but very much a 'Woohoo, look at that.'"
The action-packed nature of the Aud books, Griffith thinks, would make for a "killer TV series," but though she had serious interest from a television network last year in the Aud novels, the financing fell through. "I think my books are just a bit frightening for Hollywood. You know, she's a big old dyke, and there's no excuse for it."
That one parallel between Griffith and Aud â€” being lesbian â€” may partly explain why Griffith is often asked whether Aud is, in fact, Griffith herself, a question she has grown quite tired of. "Blatantly, people have said to me, 'So Aud is basically you then?' I'm like, 'Oh yeah, sure, if I were gorgeous, insanely rich, six feet tall, didn't have MS and was Norwegian, yeah!'"
Griffith paused and then added, "But the thing is, she kind of is. She's the road not taken."
For more on Nicola Griffith, visit her official website.