Random House Audio Listening Library

Q & A with Margaret Atwood

MaddAddam Margaret Atwood Margaret Atwood answers a few questions for us about her latest, Maddaddam. Bringing together Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, MaddAddam is the thrilling conclusion to Margaret Atwood’s trilogy.

1. Are any of the characters in the MaddAddam trilogy based on people you know? Why did you choose to tell this story through the eyes of these particular characters?

A: Part (but only part) of Zeb is based somewhat on Larry Gaynor, an old friend, bouncer, script-writer and con artist who died a couple of years ago. If he were alive today he would be getting a big laugh out of Zeb, and also making quite a few bad-taste jokes.

2.       In this vein, when you’re creating a character, do you hear a certain voice in your head? Do you try to match that when you’re casting your audiobook?

A: We worked hard on matching the voices in the audiobook to what we thought the characters might sound like. It’s partly a process of elimination… no, no, no, maybe, yes!

3.       You have been very instrumental in the casting of the MaddAddam audiobook. Have you been this involved in the audiobooks of your novels? Why is that?

A: I grew up with radio, and have done some radio and audio work myself, as well as — of course – a lot of reading aloud. The voice is primary in story-telling – all “literature” was originally oral, not written down – and text is like a musical score for voice. Speed reading misses the point, unless it’s only “idea” you want, not texture.But stories are very textured… and we “hear” them when we are reading to ourselves. Even silent reading is a late development; in the early years of texts, they were read aloud to groups.

4. “Is story-telling itself one of the motifs of MaddAddam?”

A: Most certainly. Toby is telling the story of Zeb and also the story of the Crakers to the Crakers themselves; and Zeb is telling a somewhat different version to Toby, in private. Crake, who made the Crakers, tried to eliminate “story” from their beings, but he couldn’t do it. So the novel is told in interweaving strands of voice.

When I’m writing or indeed reading, I always ask:  Who’s telling this? And to whom? And why?

Jimmy-the-Snowman doesn’t keep a journal because he can’t imagine a reader. He has no one to tell… Though even he finds himself telling the Crakers a mythology. Somehow, stories are inherent in human language.

5.      How would you categorize the genre of the MaddAddam trilogy. Science fiction? Dystopian fiction? Speculative fiction? Social science fiction? What differentiates it from science fiction? Are these the kinds of book you read for pleasure? What are you reading now / listening to (if you listen to audiobooks!)

Right now I’m reading “Humans that Went Extinct”  by X  (look up please), and “Feral” by George Monbiot… and 135 novels submitted for the Giller Prize this fall!

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