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hallebutlerThere are a lot of conversations in this book. What’s your worst conversational habit?

I don’t like to talk about myself or what I’m doing because I find it embarrassing (or I’m afraid it will be embarrassing), and then I get annoyed when the person I’m talking to is going on and on about themselves, like I wish they were as embarrassed as I am, or like it’s impolite to not be embarrassed. But then I keep asking them questions about themselves, so what are they supposed to do?

4582134Where have you been? Four years feels like a long time between books. Is that how long it takes you?

There was another manuscript I was working on for two of those four years – and I stopped when I found myself lost. I couldn’t figure out that spark of the story that had intrigued me in the first place. It was buried in multiple edits. Sometimes you have to know when to walk away.

 

So then you wrote The Grown Ups? New day, new idea?

I wish! I did the moping thing really well. I wasn’t pleasant to be around. I knew I would write again – but I didn’t know about what. The reality of my writing life is that I have trained myself to sit in a chair every morning, same time, to write. I had never experienced this scary lack of motivation, or the fear that I might not like the next idea either. It was like squinting into the sun. I had to face it – but I didn’t really want to.

KardosAuthorPhoto 1-2014Your new novel is Before He Finds Her. What’s it about?

Melanie Denison is 17 and has lived her whole life in the Witness Protection Program. Now she’s pregnant and doesn’t want her child to live in fear like she has. So she sets out on a quest to find her father, who murdered her mother years earlier and is still at large.

 

Where’d you get the idea?

There’s a second narrative thread that tells the story of the antagonist (Melanie’s father) in the days leading up to the mother’s murder back in 1991. He is a secular doomsdayer, convinced of an imminent planetary cataclysm. This guy had been in my head for years, along with the question: What happens when you’re absolutely convinced the world is going to end—which would happen to solve all your problems in one fell swoop—and then the world doesn’t end?

 

I heard that the movie version of Before He Finds Her is currently in development with J. C. Chandor slated to direct, and Abigail Breslin and Ryan Gosling slated to star. Is that true?

Actually, no. Nothing is true about that.

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Your book is about the many birds who live with you—they seem to be in every corner of your house. How does that affect your writing?

Well, it is sometimes strange to have animals talking to me when I’m working. But they can be helpful. For example, our African gray parrot, Mia Bird, often sits in my office and commands me to “Focus! Focus!” as I write. That usually does the trick if I start drifting off. One time, a rainbow lorikeet named Harli was quarantined for a few weeks in my office—we separate and observe new birds before introducing them to the flock. As I worked, Harli would settle on my head and groom me, kindly plucking a hair or two along the way. By the time her quarantine period was over, I had a small, perfectly shaped oval of bare scalp on the top of my head. Still, I did get a lot of writing done during those few weeks.

juliet escoriaWhat’s Black Cloud about?

The working/joke title was Drugs and Boys. I thought it was funny because it was so obvious. It could have also been called Substance Abuse, Bad Relationships, and Mental Illness but that is a really long title.

Kevin close-up in elevatorSo, Bonnie, what exactly is a chupacabra and why do you have one in your new linked collection, What Happened Here: a novella & stories?

Well, Bonnie, there are a lot of different people’s versions of chupacabras, which means goat suckers in Spanish. Some even think they’re extraterrestrial. I tend to go with the story that says they were first spotted in Puerto Rico, then moved into South America and Mexico, and more recently have been seen in southern parts of the United States. They’re part wolf and part dog, and yet can jump like kangaroos. They’re missing a lot of hair.

Nors, Dorthe (Simon Klein Knudsen) JACKET smallOkay, Karate Chop, 15 short stories from Denmark, and you want to be interviewed in which language, English?

Yep.

 

And you are aware of the fact that I’m Danish too and that two Danes having a conversation in English is pathetic. That’s the kind of thing we did when we were fourteen and hung out in places where no one knew us. Remember? We would act as if we were English and have fun with people in stores. But how old are we now, 43?

I would prefer to say 35, but between you and me—yes, 43.

WrightPlease describe what your novel is about.

The life of Robert Johnson, a blues musician born on May 8, 1911, has remained a mystery since his death on August 13, 1938. What little is known has been obscured by his own myth. Some reasons for the lack of accurate information concerning Robert Johnson’s life are that he not only had numerous families across the Mississippi Delta but also went by a variety of names. Play Pretty Blues, narrated by the collective voice of his six wives, illuminates the details of Robert Johnson’s life through the use of both fictional exploration and historical research. It attempts to create a broader, more compelling, and denser portrait of a musician most people know only for the legend of how he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for skills on the guitar.

Jacob M Appel HeadshotSo you’re a doctor, a lawyer, a bioethicist, a fiction writer, a playwright, a licensed New York City tour guide, you’ve published 215 short stories and you have nine graduate degrees.  Do you really exist?

Maybe. Schopenhauer wrote, “The world is my representation” (“Die Welt ist meine Vorstellung”), which suggests that I exist only as long as you exist to appreciate my impressive literary talent and rudimentary knowledge of German. However, Schopenhauer is dead, and also a rather tedious read, so he may not be the most promising authority on the subject.

I have discovered that I exist to the IRS and the folks who issue jury summonses.  Less so to the girl I had a crush on in tenth grade and to many major Manhattan literary agents.  But assuming I do exist, I am indeed the author of 215 published short stories and I do have nine graduate degrees.  Alas, none of that reduces my subway fare or helps me self-assemble an exercise bike.

TiffanyHawkAuthorPhoto2The last thing we read about stewardesses, er, flight attendants, was Coffee, Tea or Me?  

I get that a lot. It’s an airline classic and certainly the best-known book about the profession. Obviously flying has changed tremendously over the last few decades and most of the glamour has slipped away, but one of the biggest developments is that flying is now a career, not just a stint. Flight attendants, male and female, are trying to maintain lives and families while spending twenty nights a month on the road. They face loneliness and temptation and are toting around all kinds of baggage. When writing about that world, I didn’t think we needed any more silly stewardess antics or another compilation of funny anecdotes from the plane (that’s been done before, and well). With Love Me Anyway I wanted to show the deeper and more emotional side of what it’s like to live everywhere and nowhere.

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All right, interview time. You’ve been doing interviews in advance of the publication of Happy Talk, your new novel out this month from Red Lemonade, but nothing quite like this. A self-interview is, I believe, a first for you. Let’s start by asking if there is anything you’d rather not get asked.

I’d like not to talk about my failed Robin Williams impression.

henkinYour newest novel, The World Without You, takes place over a July 4th holiday in the Berkshires.  The Frankel family is gathering at their country house for the memorial for Leo, the youngest child, who was a journalist killed in Iraq.  Is the book autobiographical?

I wasn’t killed in Iraq.

Another book about the Sixties. Why?

Because I’m still trying to figure out WTF happened to us. The truth is, an awful lot of us—even the most radical of “Boomers”—ended up being a whole lot like our parents. We couldn’t have imagined then how hard life would be, how you have to work every minute of every day, adjusting constantly along the way, if you still want to be the person you were dead-set on becoming when you were young. We couldn’t imagine how we’d come out on the other end wondering how in the world we turned out to be who we are.

More specifically, though, I’m still trying to figure out how my closest college friend’s passion for righting the wrongs she saw in our society led her to commit illegal acts that profoundly affected the course of her whole life.

These questions have no answers, of course. No question really worth asking does.  Fiction is about asking those questions anyway.

So tell me, how many novels have you written?

I’ve finished five, and am currently writing my sixth.

 

How many novels have you published?

At Dawn is my third.

 

What kinds of things would you like me to ask you? Since you’re me, I mean.

Why don’t you ask all the things that I wish people would ask me just in my everyday life?

 

Sweet. Good idea. You have two cats, and they are absolutely gorgeous. What are their names and why are they so awesome?

Thank you! They are very beautiful, I know. Their names are Vesta and Ilsa. Vesta for the Roman goddess of the hearth, and Ilsa after Ingrid Bergman’s character in Casablanca. They’re awesome because they’re mine, of course.