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Archive for the 'Q&A' Category

Powell’s Q&A: Jesse Ball

Describe your latest book.
I woke up one day from a sort of daydream with an idea for a book's structure, and for the thread of that book, one predicated upon the protagonist's loss of memory. In many cases, such memory losses are accidental or undesired, but in this case, it is an asked-for amnesia. And what if there existed a department of government whose sole purpose was to offer this service?

If society is a ship, it appears to many to be firmly at anchor in moral waters. Perhaps this isn't so. If we take certain extraordinary situations, we can better see basic truths about the ordinary. The events of A Cure for Suicide take place in a near future. The lives that the characters live are ordinary lives, but because of some extraordinary developments, their lives become emblematic of certain troublesome human directions.

If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title and subtitle?
Chased Out with a Broom, Chased Out with a Newspaper: Life of Jesse Ball, Vol. 2, 1983-1985.

If you were trapped in an elevator, what fictional character would you want with you?
In ...


Powell’s Q&A: Owen Sheers

Describe your latest book.
I Saw a Man is a contemporary novel set between London, New York, Nevada, and Wales. The book opens with Michael Turner, a young widower, entering the house of his neighbors, the Nelsons, by the back door. Michael believes there is no one at home, but he is wrong. What happens in the next few minutes changes his, and the lives of the Nelsons, forever.

Michael's journey through the Nelsons' house forms the spine for the first half of I Saw a Man, from which the narrative looks back to his brief marriage to TV reporter Caroline, his grief in the wake of her death, and his moving from their cottage in Wales to a flat in London. Following his move, despite (or perhaps because?) the Nelsons appearing to represent everything Michael has lost, he quickly forms a close bond with Josh and Samantha and their two daughters. This bond promises to be the mainstay of his emotional healing, until, one day, thinking their house is empty, he enters their back door.

From the moment of the event inside the Nelsons' house, the novel gains ...


Powell’s Q&A: Chip Kidd

Describe your latest book.
Judge This is a book that evolved out of discussions with the TED Books team, chiefly my editor Michelle Quint. It is a meditation on first impressions in design and life, and when design should be clear and when it should be mysterious. And then what can happen when the two get mixed up. All using visual examples of things I encounter in my daily life and how I apply them to my work. Confused yet? You won't be after you see my new accompanying TED Talk, set to go live later this summer.

If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title and subtitle?
"How to Satisfy Your Lover Every Time: The Abraham Lincoln Way"

What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
Selling hoagies door to door in Lincoln Park, Pennsylvania.

If you were trapped in an elevator, what fictional character would you want with you?
The Escapist.

How did the last good book you read end up in your hands, and why did you read it?

My job puts great books into my hands regularly, definitely a perk.

What scares you the most as a writer?
My lack of skill.

Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
"Talent? You wouldn't know talent if it sat in your lap and painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling on the roof of your mouth." — David Sedaris


Powell’s Q&A: Michael Perry

Describe your latest book.

On Christmas Eve itself, the bachelor Harley Jackson stepped into his barn and beheld there illuminated in the straw a smallish newborn bull calf upon whose flank was borne the very image of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

"Well," said Harley, "that's trouble."

Turns out he was right.

What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
Writing. It's taken me to the top of Mt. Rainier with veterans of the Iraq War, across America with truckers, on tour with country music stars, and generally on new adventures, in which I — a flat-footed farm kid from rural Wisconsin armed with a nursing degree — have been allowed to do things I'm not qualified to do, go places I couldn't reach on my own, and hang out with people who normally wouldn't hang out with me. Once, for the sake of a story, I stood in the same room as the frozen head of Ted Williams.

Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
In 2003 I attended a reading at which the poet Honorée Fanonne Jeffers read her poem "On Listening to the Two-Headed ...


Powell’s Q&A: Aleksandar Hemon

Describe your latest book.
The Making of Zombie Wars is a roller-coaster ride of violence and sex. The main character, Joshua Levin, is a modestly talented wanna-be screenwriter whose day job is teaching English to immigrants and refugees. As the U.S. joyously invades Iraq, Joshua falls for a married Bosnian woman and his sadly stable life disintegrates. On the upside, his script entitled "Zombie Wars" seems to be going well, even if nowhere in particular. Entertaining mishaps ensue. Anyone who has ever casually ruined their life could easily identify with Josh.

Describe a recurring dream or nightmare.
I have dreams which differ in details but all have the same structure: I share a space with a large number of friends from my previous (Sarajevo) and my present (Chicago) lives. We always do something together — often we play soccer — and there is never any drama or danger or sorrow. We just exist together.

What scares you the most as a writer?
Indulging my vanity and the false feeling that I'm effortlessly, indelibly good at writing, so that whatever I crank out is great, however inane or undercooked. Also known as the ...


Powell’s Q&A: Heidi Pitlor

Describe your latest book.
My novel, The Daylight Marriage, is about a wife and mother who goes missing one day. The narrative alternates between her husband and children's story, as they try to figure out what's happened to her and the story of what is, in fact, happening to her. The husband is a climate scientist who studies the connection between global warming and hurricanes. The wife is a part-time florist. And their teenage daughter is unwittingly enamored with the gay couple next door. The book is about marriage and family and how our small, daily decisions can snowball in a way that we may not intend.

What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
In my early 20s, I was a counselor at a shelter for homeless and runaway teenagers. Many of the kids had violent pasts involving weapons; a few of them had attempted homicide. Most of the kids had been court-ordered to live at the shelter.

I sometimes worked the overnight shift. I was always on edge there, even while they were asleep. I was worried they might try to escape, and I was ...


Powell’s Q&A: Kate Bolick

Describe your latest book.
Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own is a memoir about the possibilities and perils of remaining single, starring six protagonists — five women who lived in the early 1900s, and me. These "awakeners," as I call them (a term I borrowed from Edith Wharton), are a mix of famous and obscure: journalist Neith Boyce, essayist Maeve Brennan, social visionary Charlotte Perkins Gilman, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, and novelist Edith Wharton.

The story is set primarily in New York City at the turn of the last century and the turn of this one — two eras that have much more in common than you might think. In a sense, the book is a personal prelude to a cover story I wrote for The Atlantic in 2011, called "All the Single Ladies." The bulletin board above my desk is a slice of the book in miniature:

Bulletin Board

What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
I got my first job when I was 12, as a dishwasher ...


Powell’s Q&A: Kevin M. Kruse

Describe your latest book.
My book, One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, seeks to explain why so many Americans have come to believe that this country is an officially "Christian nation." As I show in the book, the religious symbols and ceremonies that are often invoked as proof that it is come not from the Founding Fathers but rather from our own grandfathers.

The book begins by showing how, during their fight against the New Deal, corporate leaders worked with conservative clergymen to advance a language of "freedom under God" that they could use to challenge the "slavery of the state." Over the 1930s and 1940s, they spent a great deal of time and money popularizing this new Christian libertarianism, and with the election of Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, they succeeded in placing an ally in power.

With the new president pointing the way, America officially embraced a wide variety of developments that previously would have been unthinkable — the National Prayer Breakfast in 1953, the addition of "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, and the adoption of "In God We ...


Powell’s Q&A: Todd Furlong

Describe your latest book.
My latest book, Blue, Minnesota, is a meditation on boundaries, memory, identity, and family; it explores the liminal places that define us and the inherent sadness of the American Dream. Ultimately, it is a tragic love song to the vast expanse of our inner maps.

If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title and subtitle?
In fact, my biography is currently being written! The first volume is tentatively titled, Oh, the Soaring Sparrows: A Soliloquy of Loss, Redemption, and Ornithology.

What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
In my youth I was a magazine model. It was a heady time — I was a golden boy, really, wined and dined and celebrated for my body and face. When I aged out of the industry, I learned quite a bit about myself and physical beauty — that which fades and that which remains unchangeable. My intellect got me through the dark days and self-doubt, and I realized I had more gifts to share with the world.

Describe a recurring dream or nightmare.
I frequently dream that I rule a minor sultanate on an island ...


Powell’s Q&A: Jon Ronson

Describe your latest book.
So You've Been Publicly Shamed is a book about the savage renaissance of public shaming that we've decided for some insane reason to inflict upon ourselves in this social media age. All my books are about crazy cruelty. But usually — as with my book Them — the crazy cruel people are a long way off. Now the crazy cruel people are us. This is a book that I hope will convince people to be more forgiving of the flaws of others.

Describe a recurring dream or nightmare.
Ah, thank you for asking. I have a recurrent dream in which I am pursued and declared a failure. Anyone who has read my book The Psychopath Test will know this means I suffer from Nightmare Disorder.

What scares you the most as a writer?
Oh God, everything. In fact, see the previous question. Making a mistake. Being unfair. Being boring. Ah. So much. Why are you asking me these terrible questions?

Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
"Nothing skewers the heart with as much force as a period put in just the right place." –Raymond ...


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