A Word About Writing


An Interview with Rebecca Makkai, by Evan Allgood

Rebecca Makkai’s second novel, The Hundred-Year House, is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery, a comedy, a drama, and (rarest of genres) a well-written page-turner. It traces the history of a spooky literary estate named Laurelfield; as the reader moves forward through the book, he or she moves backward in time, from 1999 to 1955, then to 1929 and 1900. (The first three sections read like novellas; the last is a brief epilogue.) I spoke to Makkai about that counterintuitive structure, the differences between writing her first and second novels, and which book she’s reread the most.

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An Interview with Murray Farish, by Celia Johnson

Murray Farish’s characters are familiar at first. One could be your neighbor, that person you pass on the street, maybe a relative. A few might even seem pretty close to you. Then each story grows darker. Some of his tales dip suddenly. Others sink gradually, so that you are unaware of the depths you’ve reached until the very end. Farish’s debut collection, Inappropriate Behavior, was recently released by Milkweed Editions and, as T.M. McNally observes, “These stories are the gift of a serious and electric talent.” I spoke with Farish about his dark and twisted subject matter, his creative process, and his literary heroes, who all became famous later in life.

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An Interview with CJ Hauser, by Celia Johnson

Small towns. Cool ocean breezes. It’s the perfect time to visit Maine. And if you can’t head north, I suggest picking up a copy of CJ Hauser’s The From-Aways. Menamon is a town of Hauser’s own invention, a place where lobster boats bob in the water and the locals date back generations. Two women, who are completely unalike, land in the town and find their lives irrevocably reversed. Hauser’s debut novel is not only poignant, but filled with incisive wit. I spoke with her about her fiery characters, her creative process, and what surprised her most about the publishing process.

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An Interview with Kimberly Elkins, by Celia Johnson

In 2001, Kimberly Elkins picked up a copy of the New Yorker and became engrossed in an article about Laura Bridgman, a woman few people know, despite world-wide renown in the Nineteenth Century. Laura was deaf and blind and had no sense of taste or smell. As a young girl, she amazed others by learning to communicate. She was a true pioneer (before Helen Keller). Elkins first wrote a story about Laura and then, over many years, produced a novel. What Is Visible was recently released and it is a mesmerizing tale. In a review for the New York Times, Barbara Kingsolver observed, “A novel’s extraordinary power is to allow a reader to take possession of the inner life of another. This one provides entree to a nearly unthinkable life, and while no one would want to live there, it’s a fascinating place to visit.” I spoke with Elkins about her fierce protagonist, the challenges of writing historic fiction, and, as a debut novelist, what advice she’d give to her former self.

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An Interview with Roxane Gay, by Heidi Sistare

Roxane Gay’s novel, An Untamed State, was recently published by Black Cat / Grove Press. The story follows Mireille, an American lawyer and young mother, as she is kidnapped and held captive when visiting her parents in Haiti. Roxane Gay writes both fiction and cultural criticism; all of her writing is incisive. Her book of essays, Bad Feminist, comes out in August. We talked about An Untamed State, how she supports other writers, and how she produces such an impressive amount of great writing.

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An Interview with Kseniya Melnik, by Celia Johnson

In Kseniya Melnik’s Snow in May, you’ll meet a group of disparate characters who are all somehow inextricably bound to Magadan, Russia. This town, like its inhabitants, is full of stark contrasts: the Russian labor camps, the forbidding landscape, and still there is hope, courage, and even the arts flourish. I spoke with Melnik about her hometown, her unwavering dedication to writing, and her creative quirks.

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