25 Women to Read Before You Die

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Powell's Q&A

Grady Klein

Describe your latest project.
The Lost Colony takes place in 19th-century America, before the Civil War. The story follows the experiences of several characters who live on a mysterious island. In the book, a cute little girl wants to avoid her chores, so she leaves the island to buy a slave to do her chores for her. This is a commonplace sort of thing: like buying a new pair of shoes or an appliance or some orange juice. This is, of course, utterly horrifying since we understand slavery to be wrong. However, we as a people didn't know slavery was evil back then. Why didn't we know it? It seems so obvious.

The Lost Colony is a series. It's historical fiction — albeit with some wild and crazy anachronisms — but it's very much about what it means to be an American today. How do we wrestle with our severest moral quandaries, the ugliest blots on our national honor? How can we comprehend their resonance with the problems we face today? And how do we preserve our ability to laugh about it all? Throw in a Chino-Latino quack and his monstrous assistant, a stern Cherokee barkeep, a trigger-happy laundress, a patriotic malaprop Governor, and Birdy Snodgrass, the cute little girl who catalyzes disaster, and you've got life on the Lost Colony.

You can see some Lost Colony samples here.

If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title and subtitle?
My biography will be called Grady Klein: A Life Unleashed. When it's made into a movie, I would be played by Ian McKellen.

What fictional character would you like to date, and why?
I'm married, so of course I can't answer that question! So I'll change it to: If I could be married to any literary character, who would it be? I would choose to be married to Emma Bovary, to test whether I have any more mettle than that dipshit whatshisface who she really married.

If you could choose a story to live in, what story would it be, and why?
Definitely in Treasure Island, or in Patrick O'Brian's books. Except without all the sodomy. And my pirate ship would be egalitarian and have all three genders on it.

Introduce one author you think other people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
Dickens. Bleak House. Read aloud. Did you know he used more vowels than any other author in English? I read aloud every night. I find the cadences and waves in his prose absolutely mesmerizing. His characters are absolutely vivid to me, and they are cartoonish. It's a balance I hope to strike in my own work.

What is your favorite literary first line?
"Call me Ishmael." Obviates the need to read the next bazillion pages. Seriously though, it's startling and assertive. It begs the question, why? I think it's even better than the beginning of Luke, which is less terse and comparatively a bit ponderous. Besides, in the beginning wasn't the word, it was the picture.

How did the last good book you read appear in your hands and why did you read it?
I devoured Muriel Spark's Memento Mori. It just appeared on the nightstand. I was visiting my crazy grandmother in the home and here was this book. In a back-handed sort of way it celebrates senility, or celebrates the forgetfulness that saves us from dread.

In the "For-All-Eternity" category, what would be your final thought?
"Nooooooooooooooooo...!!!!!" spacer

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