A year in interviews: words from the authors

by Lara

Nineteen interviews were published this year on Feedbooks. What did authors talk about in 2012? What were their main themes, preoccupations, interests?

America: its strengths, weaknesses, fights and contradictions

Jonathan DeeWarren Dianne © Don Hall

About women’s rights:
“It’s not just Obama’s election that gives me hope. In the legislative races also, all the worst crazies—those opposed to contraception and abortion, those against exceptions even in the cases of rape, incest and grave risk to the mother’s life—went down. And it was often the votes of women who took them down. I don’t believe the kooks will vanish, but I think the American people sent them a clear message that their extremism is not shared by most of us and will be tolerated less and less.”
Interview of Hillary Jordan about When She Woke

Obesity, a major social and health issue:
“Michelle Obama has a campaign to fight childhood obesity, and in New York City where I live, the mayor just banned extra-large sizes for sweetened drinks. I think we have a long haul ahead though.”
Interview of Jami Attenberg about The Middlesteins

The other aspect of the American dream:
“[It] has to do with the idea of American exceptionalism, the notion that Americans love to cling to, that they’re a sort of biblical city on the hill, that they’re an example to the rest of the world, that their way of life is vindicated because they’re superior to the rest of the world in every respect; and that of course, except maybe in military terms, is almost impossible to believe in. But look at simple things like education or infant mortality : we’re doing terribly, but the worst we do, the more fiercely Americans wanna hold on to it, and the angrier they get if you try to deny it.”
Interview of Jonathan Dee about Palladio

News media and the American legal system:
“I think they are a reflection of a society that ignores the growing social divide that’s plain to see in most American cities. The court system is neglected by a society that simply wants to lock away as many criminals for as long as possible, ignoring the social problems that feed crime and drug use, which is the chief source of crime in California and elsewhere. And the news media feeds people’s prejudices and very simplistic and reactionary explanations of what’s causing California’s decline.”
Interview of Héctor Tobar about The Barbarian Nurseries

The influence of the financial crisis:
“There are many stories in Canada and the US about farm bankruptcies and the change from the small family farms or ranches to larger corporate operations. I think it’s a question of viability. The banker in a small town is the person who knows all of his clients’ financial situations, and I was thinking what a burden that would be for an empathetic individual.”
Interview of Dianne Warren about Juliet in August

Historical fiction as a way to learn

David BezmozgisGunnar Staalesen
In 1961, 200 Muslims were thrown in the Seine during a peaceful demonstration organized against the colonial war that was led in Algeria at the time.
“It was the first time in history that a colonized people was insurrecting in the geographical and political center of the nation that was oppressing them. Symbolically, I think that 17 October 1961 is the end of the French colonial empire, and I think that this reality still cannot be looked straight in the eye.”
Interview of Didier Daeninckx about Murder in Memoriam

David Bezmozgis tells the story of the Krasnansky family – which is also his own story -, who arrived in Rome in the late 70′s after a difficult journey from Latvia, waiting for this freedom promised by the Western world.
“The reason for writing the book is, in a way, precisely because it’s not well-known. When people think about Jewish immigration, they often think about the Second World War and the Holocaust or what came before, but there is a massive emigration and the last one, from Europe, which was this emigration from the Soviet Union.”
Interview of David Bezmozgis about The Free World

Writing to investigate the past of one’s country:
“In a mystery novel, the past is almost always present. Because murders and present-day crimes are investigated by the police. If a detective wants to investigate on the edge of an ordinary investigation (often a murder in the case of mystery novels), the weight of the past must be important. Incidentally, it is the same narrative technique used by the great Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen in his « modern » plays : the retrospective technique.”
Interview of Gunnar Staalesen about Consorts of Death

Being a writer in 2012

Maria Semplekjellgillianflynnmawer

Working with American mythologies:
“I think it’s important, for me anyway, just not to take it too seriously. I think that if you’re working on a genre and you’re referencing something that has really rich history, you should treat it respectfully, but I also think it’s important to approach such things with as lighter touches as possible. It’s easy to get wrapped up in something’s history or the legacy you’re addressing, and I tried to avoid it.”
Interview of Patrick deWitt about The Sisters Brothers

Internet and its limits:
“I think the Internet takes us away from reality. It’s an addiction. It offers escape without nourishment. Everyone is looking for some kind of emotional connection and they hope to find it on the Internet. But it’s not there. I taped a little sign to my computer that reads, “There are no answers here.””
Interview of Maria Semple about Where’d You Go, Bernadette

The social dimension of a novel:
“Sweden has a lot of countryside and I think it’s important to write about the whole Sweden, not just the urban, chic areas, the cities. For many years I worked on the countryside, as a gardener, and got to know people there, ordinary, humble, people whom you do not see in the smart magazines or in the television-shows. It is “my” people.”
Interview of Kjell Eriksson about The Cruel Stars of The Night

From paper to digital: a tough reality?
“The newspaper and magazine industry has taken a real hit with the sway toward the Internet—I wrote that into the book because I experienced it in real life when I was laid off from my magazine job four years ago. As for the book industry, I don’t know the economics as well. I am certainly happy people are buying books! I have friends who only read on e-readers, and I have friends who only read on paper. I’m happy they’re reading.”
Interview of Gillian Flynn about Gone Girl

Writers and science:
“Artists who have no science are severely limited. Scientists can always read novels and look at pictures and listen to music. Most do. But artists ought to study physics, chemistry and biology. Few do. Which group is the richer? And, of course, mankind is essentially unintelligible without a grasp of genetics and evolutionary biology.”
Interview of Simon Mawer about The Glass Room

And where is the reader?

Nic PizzolattoChuck Palahniuk

The reader is the author:
“The only reader I ever really have in mind is some version of myself. The reader in me without the writer. Probably like most writers I write for myself, figuring that I have outstanding taste and if I can please myself, surely some others might be pleased as well. I don’t know any other way to make art.”
Interview of Nic Pizzolatto about Galveston

The author is afraid of the reader:
“The secret is that this novel is based on the anxiety I feel when meeting hundreds of readers. So many people rush forward and tell me shocking, personal stories, and after six hundred-plus interactions I feel a little bit gang-banged.”
Interview of Chuck Palahniuk about Snuff