Describe your latest book.
My new book, Thunder and Lightning, is about weather and humankind through the ages.
How did the last good book you read end up in your hands, and why did you read it?
I'm reading Ian Frazier's On the Rez, which was given to me by a friend. Fantastic book.
Aside from other writers, name some artists from whom you draw inspiration.
Charlotte Salomon, Frances Glessner Lee, Jockum Nordström, Otto Dix. Also early medieval painting, 15th-century German portraiture, Flemish still lives, film stills, and scrimshaw art.
What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
When I was a kid I worked with my grandfather and his brother, my great-uncle, at their grocery store in Worcester, Massachusetts. I helped my grandfather behind the meat counter. Sometimes this involved getting slabs of beef out of the meat locker, sometimes I had to slice chickens in half with an electric saw. I loved the store, but it made me a vegetarian.
Dogs, cats, budgies, or turtles?
I became fond of turtles when I drew fossilized specimens for a paleontologist at the Museum of Natural History in New York. Also, they remind me of my dad who likes to quote this saying: "Admire the turtle; it is all backbone and the only way it gets anywhere is by sticking its neck out."
Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
Sometimes I clip interesting sentences or sentence fragments from the newspaper and paste them into my sketchbook. Here are two examples:
What is your idea of absolute happiness?
Being with my kids and my husband, outside somewhere beautiful on a warm, breezy day. Or by myself at the Metropolitan Museum.
Do you have a favorite font? Does it change depending on the project?
I design my own fonts for every project. I think of the typeface as the "voice" of the book, so the form of the letters needs to capture something of the spirit of the book. The typeface I designed for Thunder and Lighting has a slight tilt forward, as if it is being blown by a gentle breeze. Here are a few sample letters:
Great weather books:
A lot of weather books are boring. These are the opposite: vivid, gripping, moving.
A Woman in a Polar Night by Christiane Ritter
Waterfall Rapture by Tadanori Yokoo
Winter by Adam Gopnik
Burning Bush by Stephen J. Pyne
The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert