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Archive for the 'Powell’s Q&A' Category

Powell’s Q&A: Emily St. John Mandel

Describe your latest book.
My new novel is called Station Eleven. It's about a traveling Shakespearean theatre company in a post-apocalyptic North America. The book moves back and forth in time between the years just before a devastating flu pandemic brings about the collapse of civilization as we know it, and a time 20 years after the collapse when a company of actors and musicians travels between the settlements of the sparsely populated new world. It's also about friendship, memory, love, celebrity, our obsession with objects, oppressive dinner parties, what remains when everything is lost, comic books, and knife-throwing.

If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title and subtitle?
Typing Responses to Interview Questions One-Handed on iPad on the Subway: The Emily St. John Mandel Story

What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
I was a part-time janitor for a while when I was 20, which was interesting because I was cleaning the massive renovated former church in Toronto that houses Toronto Dance Theatre, the School of Toronto Dance Theatre, and the Winchester Street Theatre, and it was a beautiful old building with a ...


Kids’ Q&A: Emily Winfield Martin

Describe your new book.
Oddfellow's Orphanage is a series of stories/vignettes that tell the tale of the newest arrival to a curious orphanage, a mute girl named Delia. Through her eyes, we meet the orphanage itself, as well as the kind, but unusual family that calls Oddfellow's home. This is all nestled into the form of an early chapter book, heavily illustrated throughout with graphite drawings. I love books like The Wind in the Willows, Winnie-the-Pooh, or Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, books in which small interactions and adventures are collected together to create a larger sense of wonder and place. This is my hope for these stories, too.

What fictional character would you like to be your friend, and why?
I'd like to befriend Nick and Nora Charles from Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man, but they would probably be too quick-witted (even soused) for the likes of me. So I'll opt for P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves. Preferably embodied by Stephen Fry.

If you could choose any story to live in, which story would it be? Why?
I do think it would be awfully nice ...


Powell’s Q&A: Ryan Boudinot

Describe your latest work.
Blueprints of the Afterlife is a novel about the following things: giant heads that appear in the sky, a mystical refrigerator in the desert that never runs out of food, a competitive dishwashing champion, a sentient glacier that wipes out various North American cities, aliens, the ghost of a dotcom-era CEO, hundreds of clones of an ancient pop star's backup dancer, a town that's infected with hallucinations, and a full-size replica of Manhattan under construction in Puget Sound.

What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
Ice cream man. I drove a little truck for Joe's Ice Cream in Seattle for a couple summers while in college in the early '90s. Then I worked for a different, shadier outfit in Thurston County a third summer. It's really the perfect summer job for a college student. I got paid in cash every day, got to drive around in the sun, was a hero to children in cul-de-sacs.

Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
I think people should read Trinie Dalton. She's an ...


Powell’s Q&A: Charles Frazier

Describe your latest book.
Nightwoods is a bit of a departure for me, at least in the sense that it is shorter than Cold Mountain and Thirteen Moons and takes place mid-20th-century. The main character is Luce, a young woman who has isolated herself as caretaker of an abandoned tourist lodge on the back side of a lake, an hour from the nearest town. She's convinced herself that she's happy living alone, with the natural world as her deepest relationship. But her murdered sister's silent, troubled children arrive, killing chickens and setting fires, needing care. And they're soon followed by Bud, the sister's husband and murderer, who is convinced the children have something that belongs to him. Things progress from there.

Have you ever made a literary pilgrimage?
Many. But maybe my favorite was one that my father planned. We went to Poe's dormitory at University of Virginia. This was before the room was made into a shrine, so we knocked on the door and the student who ...


Powell’s Q&A: Eleanor Catton

Describe your latest book/project/work.
My second novel, The Luminaries, is set in the New Zealand gold rushes of the 1860s, though it's not really a historical novel in the conventional sense. So far I've been describing it as "an astrological murder mystery."

I used the Mac download Stellarium and also the interactive sky chart at www.starandtelescope.com to generate star charts for the years 1865-1866, as seen from the position of the New Zealand goldfields. I then tracked the motion of the planets over that year, and came up with a kind of horoscope for the novel. I wanted the charts to dictate the form and content of the book: However the planets were aligned, on any given day, would dictate what was happening on the fields below.

Making the plot fit the sky was difficult. I began by researching crimes, cons, and tricks, and reading as much classic crime as I could get my hands on. I researched the history of the zodiac, and the temperaments associated with each of the twelve Sun Signs; I studied up on the planets, and their astrological significance; I read novels published in the ...


Powell’s Q&A: Jonathan Coe

Describe your latest book.
My latest book is a novel called The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim. It takes as its starting point some of the new ways of communicating with each other that technology now allows us — texting, social networking, talking to the voice on your GPS — but in fact it is not "about" any of those things. It is about our quest to find the greatest fulfillment in the world — intimacy with another human being — and the kind of self-knowledge you need in order to be ready for that. My previous novel was rather serious, but this time I have decided to go down the comic route, exploring this theme through the story of a salesman who is sent alone on a doomed mission from one end of the U.K. to the other by car, as part of a misguided marketing campaign. This mission becomes a journey into his own past, at the end of which he is forced to confront secrets about himself that he has been avoiding. Ultimately the novel ...


Powell’s Q&A: Alison Espach

Describe your latest book.
My first novel, The Adults, came out in February. Right now, I'm working on my second novel, but I'm at that critical stage where saying the plot aloud or attempting to describe it in any way makes me not want to write the book. So, for the sake of the second novel's completion, I plead the Fifth.

What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
I once had a job transcribing market-research interviews. Duties ranged from listening to married couples talk about their Honda CRV to watching a video recording of an "average American family" shop at Wal-Mart. As they shopped, I had to record their movements in detail (Women in red shirt picks up Bic Pens and hands to man, presumably her husband, in beige), along with dialogue ("The red pens? Why not the multipack?"). Shopping at Wal-Mart is one of my least favorite things to do ever, but at least there's the satisfaction of buying things. Watching another family shop at Wal-Mart is boring in too many ways and really makes me wonder why I had ...


Powell’s Q&A: Amy Sedaris

Describe your latest book.
It's called Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People. It was written under the premise that attractive people have sex, ugly people craft. I, myself, spend a lot of time crafting.

Writers are better liars than other people: true or false?
Oh, definitely false. When I was growing up in a gypsy caravan traveling the low country, Uncle Knapek always instilled the importance of truthfulness. He'd say to me: "Amy, you'll go farther in this life if you remember that you attract more flies with rugelach than a swatter ." Then he would polish his goat and I would pretend to read the fortunes of strangers, and my cousin would sneak up behind them and clobber them on the head. While they were unconscious, we would search their mouths for the gold in their teeth.

How do you relax?
Are you a cop? If you are, and I ask you and you don't admit it, this is entrapment, so regardless of what I do to relax — let's hypothetically say the Volcano Digit Vaporizer including the complete valve system ...


Powell’s Q&A: Geoffrey Wolff

Describe your latest book.
To refer to The Hard Way Around: The Passages of Joshua Slocum as a labor of love would be to dramatize the cost of it. Rather, shipping aboard with Joshua Slocum as he sailed the seven seas during the last half of the 19th century was an indulgence of love , sparked almost 50 years ago when a friend gave me his copy of Sailing Alone Around the World. I never felt a moment's regret reading or studying this master mariner and his prose, his schemes and adventures, his escapes from disasters and his audacious achievement: first to sail alone and around and for no reason other than he felt like doing it.

If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title and subtitle?
Oh, Honestly!: A Son of the Duke of Deception

What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
My fanciest job title was bestowed upon my person at United Aircraft's Sikorsky helicopter factory in Bridgeport, Connecticut: "Engineering Communications Co-ordinator" (I was the mailboy). My ...


Powells Q&A: Kate Buford

Describe your latest book.
Native American Son: The Life and Sporting Legend of Jim Thorpe, a biography of America's greatest all-around athlete. After writing a book about the movies — Burt Lancaster: An American Life — I wanted to jump into the other great area of modern culture and expression, sports. Thorpe (1887-1953) was the first international celebrity athlete at the dawn of organized sports and an American Indian. His life is a cautionary tale of great gifts, passionate fan loyalty, exploitation, trust betrayed, inner demons, feckless waste, and profound regrets. I wrote the book in part to see what the patterns of his life could teach us about how we regard sports and the men and women who play them today. Thorpe's life had never been thoroughly examined and it seemed like a big gap in our history that needed to be filled in.

Why do you write?
To find out what happened and why. It's a compulsion and often a dangerous one. At one point I realized I was getting too ...


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