Interview

Interview
by  on Aug 03, 2017

                       

What inspired you to write the novel?

I noticed a trend in African American communities whereby members of my generation seemed to have fewer opportunities available to them than members of my grandparents’ generation. That struck me as odd considering there was such blatant racism alive in my grandparents’ generation including Jim Crow segregation. I wondered what systemic oppression had taken the place of Jim Crow to block African Americans in a modern setting. And I wanted to explore those systems through fiction so that readers might viscerally experience the heartbreaking impact racism has on people’s lives.

What are you reading right now? 

I just read Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong, which was a subtly heartbreaking but funny take on a woman’s transition into adulthood in the face of her father’s battle with Alzheimer’s.

What’s the one book that you recommend to people, over and over?

Probably Purple Hibiscus. People love Americanah and for good reason, but Adichie’s first book, Purple Hibiscus, tells the compelling and engrossing story of a young girl coming of age in a violent home in postcolonial Nigeria.

Who are some of your writer mentors? Do you find that’s changed over time as you evolve as a writer or do they remain the same? 

Jane Vandenburgh is a mentor who has taught me so much about writing but more importantly about accessing the magic behind the work, the source of the creation. I don’t think that will ever change because she has a timeless ability to guide me back to the real reason I’m creating in the first place, and that seems like a gift that will always be relevant.

What is your most prized book possession? A first edition? A gift? Please describe. 

My most prized book possession is probably my signed copy of Leaving Atlanta, in which Tayari Jones reassured me that my book (which I hadn’t written yet) would be beautiful.

by  on Jul 10, 2017

What inspired you to write the new novel?
Pages for Her is a sequel to a novel that was published in 2001, Pages for You. Those characters were very vivid to me as I wrote that novel, and have seemed alive to many readers over the years: the story poured out of me at a transitional time in my own life, and I think that helps explain its intensity.

When I wrote that book, I did not imagine writing a sequel, but readers have often wondered what happened later to Flannery and Anne, and the more I was asked that question the more I began to wonder, myself. After a while I knew that eventually I would have to write about Flannery and Anne again to find out where they went, and what they continued to mean to each other even from a distance. Writing Pages for Her was the way to find out.


What are you reading right now? 

I just finished Rachel Cusk’s brilliant novel Outline. Her prose is so cool and clear, and she has such insights about marriage and divorce, motherhood, writing—life. It’s all there. I’m going to find the book that followed it, Transit, and read that soon.

In the interim, though, I am reading C E Morgan’s first novel, All the Living. I recently read The Sport of Kings and was astonished by it: Morgan is a writer to watch closely, as she has scope and depth in her work, and a spiritual seriousness too.


What’s the one book that you recommend to people, over and over? 

It’s interesting how hard I find it to answer this question! I am not much of a proselytizer, by nature: of course there are novels I love and writers who feel like they belong to me personally, but I don’t always assume that my taste will be shared by someone else, or that I know what book is right for someone else at a particular time. (That’s a funny thing about novels, isn’t it? It has to be the right time for them. When I first read Middlemarch, I could not find it, somehow; later, I came back to it when I was ready and discovered the masterpiece everyone had told me it was.)

Having said all that! – there is a title that comes to mind that I love to recommend, and that is Toni Morrison’s first novel, The Bluest Eye. It is a stark, beautiful, extraordinary novel. So short and powerful, lined with grief and anger and love. I enjoy recommending it as people often know her later ‘bigger’ books, Beloved or The Song of Solomon, and I enjoy drawing people’s attention back to that remarkable book.


Who are some of your writer mentors? Do you find that’s changed over time as you evolve as a writer or do they remain the same? 

In person, I was lucky enough to be taught by John Barth and Stephen Dixon at Johns Hopkins, and they are both writers of intelligence, humor and integrity, so were great guides both to writing and to the writer’s life.

In terms of writers whose work I hold close, yes certainly the novelists I treasure have changed. I loved Woolf and always will, though I have not re read her in years. In my twenties I was one of many readers bewitched by Jeanette Winterson, along with other writers who had powerful voices, such as Jamaica Kincaid and Grace Paley. I admired from a bit more of a distance English writers like Ian McEwan and Julian Barnes.

Now, though, I’m returning to some of the great social realists of the last century, Forster for instance, and Wharton: I am interested in reading writers whose characters are complete, and whole. Both of those writers have such empathy, and humor in their understanding of people. Penelope Fitzgerald, too, though she’s a different kettle of fish.


What is your most prized book possession? A first edition? A gift? Please describe. 

When I was about fourteen, I had a romantic boyfriend a few years older than I was, in Oxford, who gave me a copy of Richard III, inscribed with a French love poem. I had to study Richard III for my exams. I would be really sad to lose this book, which has miraculously made it through so many moves. I have no idea what happened to that young man, but I’m touched still by his inscription. And it is so great that it is Richard III, that powerful and savage story. It would be awful if it had been Romeo and Juliet!

by  on Feb 28, 2017

In a recent interview with Whitefish Review, Jimmy Kimmel called Arthur Allen’s book Ripe: The Search for the Perfect Tomato a must read. Read the full interview here.

by  on Jan 13, 2017

Mutha magazine interviews Gina Frangello on her novel, Every Kind of Wanting. Read the interview here.

by  on Jan 12, 2017

Piano Tide author Kathleen Dean Moore interviewed on XRAY in the Morning. Listen to the full interview here.

by  on Dec 23, 2016

Spies of Palestine author James Srodes tells The Times of Israel’s JP O’Malley why history has forgotten Sarah Aaronsohn. Read the full article here.

by  on Dec 21, 2016

William Keller, author of Democracy Betrayed, shares his thoughts on the future of FBI director James Comey in an article for The Hill. Read the full article here.

by  on Dec 14, 2016

Laurie Sheck (author of Island of the Mad) explores the curious space of the internet, along with her own writing for LitHub. Read the full essay here.

by  on Dec 09, 2016

Kathleen Dean Moore dissects the environmental drive behind Piano Tide with the Corvallis Gazette-Times’ Mike McInally. Read the full interview here.

by  on Nov 22, 2016

Betty Fussell, author of Eat, LiveLove, Die, recalls her worst Thanksgiving for The Daily Beast. Read the full essay here.

by  on Nov 18, 2016

Kim Brooks (The Houseguest) , Karen Bender (Refund), and William Keller (Democracy Betrayed) and other writers share their thoughts on “What It Means to Be A Writer In the Time of Trump” for the Huffington Post. Read the full article here.

by  on Nov 16, 2016

Nancy L. Cohen, author of Breakthrough: The Making of America’s First Woman President, explores the role of gender in the 2016 presidential election. Read the full article here.