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Powell's Q&A | September 3, 2014

Emily St. John Mandel: IMG 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... Continue »
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    Station Eleven

    Emily St. John Mandel 9780385353304

Original Essays | September 17, 2014

Merritt Tierce: IMG Has My Husband Read It?

My first novel, Love Me Back, was published on September 16. Writing the book took seven years, and along the way three chapters were published in... Continue »
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    Love Me Back

    Merritt Tierce 9780385538077


Powell's Q&A

Wendy Spero

Describe your latest project.
Microthrills is a collection of true stories about growing up in Manhattan with a tiny, overprotective sex-therapist mother. It's about a world I created as a little kid — one I've kept alive in my adult life. I see myself as a thrill-seeker, but because I'm fairly high-maintenance, and rather fearful, I find adventure in small things, like Twizzlers and finger puppets, and avoid what I consider to be big, scary things like roller-coaster riding and driving. The book has a conversational tone. There are pictures, too. They include shots of my Einstein-look-a-like grandfather in his string bikini in Florida, and a few stuffed animal dioramas.

What fictional character would you like to date, and why?
I've always been a big fan of Ziggy. He's witty. Chill. Seems like he'd be a good listener and the type of guy to ask a lot of questions about your day. I have a feeling he'd be super skilled in the bedroom, too. I've also been a bit of a chubby chaser....

If you could choose any story to live in, what story would that be? Why?
Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. The Gene Wilder one, not the Johnny Depp one. My whole life I've wanted to do the Elementary Backstroke in a pond of milk chocolate. Swimming scares me, but I've mastered the Elementary Backstroke, and I've fantasized about a milk chocolate pond for decades. I'm also pretty obsessed with candy in general. I like Nips and Bit-O-Honeys. I'm up to seven root canals and at least twenty cavities.

How did the last good book you read end up in your hands and why did you read it?
For many months, as I worked on the book, I sat in a fetal position in pilly pajamas staring at a blank computer screen. Every time I started a new chapter, I felt like I was spiraling into a dark vortex of insecurity. I was telling my boyfriend's mother about the panic and she immediately sent me Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I read it several times. It was calming and encouraging and inspiring, without being cheesy or self-help-y. It was more effective than all the anxiety medication I'd been taking combined.

What section of the newspaper do you read first?
The marriage announcement section. I used to play a game with my friend — we tried to guess which couple would get divorced first. In every section a few women appear all alone in their wedding announcement. I want to say to these women, "I mean, if he can't show up for the photo..."

What makes your favorite pair of shoes better than the rest?
I am surprised by my gut reaction to this question. I am highly unathletic and cherish my small collection of fairly sassy boots from second-hand stores. But right now, my Nike Air Rifts are my favorite. They are part sandle/slip-on, part sneaker. So I can walk a lot, but without the bulk of a thick sneaker. You can wear them with skirts. I refuse to wear flip-flops because my toes are highly unattractive, and flip-flops are essentially string bikinis for the feet. So the Nikes make a good substitute. And despite the fact that flip-flops hurt my feet, the toe divide on the Nikes (there is a slit in the shoe between the big toe and the second big toe) is totally comfortable. They even come with special socks with a toe divide. I recommend them.

Dogs, cats, budgies or turtles?
I'm not afraid to admit that I actively dislike dogs. They remind me of those kids at camp who were a little too gung-ho about dodgeball and who always had ice cream smeared on their faces after lunch. I'm also not a fan of cats. I had a bad experience in third grade during a sleepover with a creepy cat that had conjunctivitis. I once owned a bird named "green parakeet" and I once owned a turtle named "Slowpoke." I wasn't close with either of them. So I say it's a tie between turtles and budgies, but I'm not crazy about those either. I am, however, a huge fan of every kind of stuffed animal.

Make a question of your own, then answer it.
Q: How has your family reacted to your book?

A: I had to make a special version of the book just for my ninety-nine-year-old grandmother, who reads three books a day. I knew she wouldn't be able to handle the chapter about her and my grandfather, even though I make fun of them in a perfectly loving manner. I talk about how I recently found a strip tease video of my grandmother at age twenty-five, and I think that might have weirded her out.

The memoir is really a valentine to my mother, but she refuses to read it. She feels that her privacy has been invaded. But surprisingly, she agreed to record her Cornish game hen recipe at the end of my audio book. While discussing a pivotal ingredient of a special Cornish game hen recipe, she knocked her glass of water over in the recording booth. She got hysterical about the water touching the chords, and was convinced we'd get electrocuted. The sound engineer behind the glass looked at me, grinned, and mouthed, "This is gold." The whole crisis was luckily recorded and set to music at the end of the CD. In that instant, all James Frey concerns were obliterated from my mind. She was her totally neurotic, adorable self, and subsequently confirmed everything I had ever written. spacer

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