What books are on your nightstand?
Who is your favorite novelist of all time?
Who are your favorite writers — novelists, nonfiction, journalists, poets — working today?
What genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?
Of all the genres you write in, which is the most fun? The most difficult? The most rewarding?
You’ve written a number of novellas over the years. What’s the attraction of the form? And what novellas in particular do you especially admire?
The novella is a long thing that a reader might finish in one sitting. That lets you incorporate all kinds of subtle effects. Once you stretch past 50,000 words, you have to make greater sacrifices for profluence.
Great novellas that come to mind: “Carmilla” by Lefanu, “The Wine Dark Sea” by Robert Aickman, “The Jaunt” or “The Mist” by Stephen King, “The Corn Maiden” and a slew of other ones by Joyce Carol Oates.
Music has been a big part of your life and infused your work. Do you have favorite books about music or books written by musicians?
What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelves?
Take a moment to praise a few unheralded writers. Whom should we be reading?
My friend Louis Maistros has written an eerie historic novel set in turn-of-the-century New Orleans. It’s called The Sound of Building Coffins, and its audience has grown over the years to the point that someone’s publishing a new edition reinstating material that got cut for space from the first one. (There was a lot of it.)
To my mind, the best modern descendant of the excellent American multi-genre writers of the 20th century is David Schow. (“Unheralded” doesn’t actually apply, since he has won awards for decades, but way more people would like his story collections than currently know about them.) He’s a successful Hollywood screenwriter, so why does he keep wasting his time on short stories? I don’t know, but let’s hope he doesn’t wise up.
I’m eager to see Emily St. John Mandel’s next book. Station Eleven was superb.
I haven’t read anything by Harriet Lane except She, but I’ve got my eye on her. Her moral landscape is brutal, somewhere out there alongside Muriel Spark’s and Patricia Highsmith’s.
Of the books you’ve written, which is your favorite or the most personally meaningful?
Do you enjoy fiction in translation? Stories from particular corners of the world?
What kind of reader were you as a child? Your favorite book? Most beloved character?
If you could pick your next book to be turned into a movie or TV series, which would it be and why?
A producer picked me to write two screenplays years ago that I subsequently adapted into short novels when her financiers fell through.
I would choose one of them because I would get paid and the script’s already written.
You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers are invited?
What book did you feel you were supposed to like, and didn’t?
Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?
What book hasn’t been written that you’d like to read?
Whom would you want to write your life story?
What books do you find yourself returning to again and again?
What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?
What do you plan to read next?
Photo credit Louis Maistros Photography