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Reading Guide: A THOUSAND PARDONS by Jonathan Dee

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Dee_A Thousand PardonsHappy Monday, Book Clubbers!

Jonathan Dee’s latest novel, A Thousand Pardons, goes on sale August 6 and we’ve got an excerpt from the exclusive Random House Reader’s Circle materials in the back of the book for you to enjoy.

“A Thousand Pardons is that rare thing: a genuine literary thriller. Eerily suspenseful and packed with dramatic event, it also offers a trenchant, hilarious portrait of our collective longing for authenticity in these overmediated times.”—Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Conversation with Jonathan Dee and Dana Spiotta

Dana Spiotta is the author of three novels: Lightning Field; Eat the Document, which was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award and a recipient of the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; and Stone Arabia, which was a finalist for the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award. Spiotta has won a Guggenheim Fellowship, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, and the Rome Prize in Literature. She is an assistant professor in the Syracuse University Creative Writing Program.

Dana Spiotta: Helen’s apology wrangling is described as a gift, a vocation, and an accidental specialty. It is mysterious to her exactly why, yet her idea of “total submission” works. This process strikes me as almost religious.

Jonathan Dee: I’m not interested in current events per se, but I am interested in how certain aspects of social or public life that might seem ultra-contemporary actually take their place in a long American continuum. If you look at the practice of “crisis management,” and maybe squint at it a little, you can make out in the corners of your vision the ghosts or the vestiges of a much older, but still thoroughly American, form of public life, one centered not on public opinion but on religion. The theater of press conferences, Oprah sit-downs, et cetera is like an old, sacred vessel into which all this contemporary, pro- fane content gets poured. To me, A Thousand Pardons is a book not about spin or scandal or PR or even forgiveness, but about religious heritage. But I wanted the story itself to have a smooth surface, and to wear its ideas lightly.

DS: A Thousand Pardons has a breakneck pace. Events propel the characters forward, and as soon as they react to one event, another event happens. It’s hard to resist the momentum, and then the reader wants to go back and read it all again, more slowly. Tell me why pace was so important in this book?

JD: It would be going way too far to say I wanted the novel to be a par- able, but I wanted it to have some of the formal aspects of a parable or a religious tale. Parables are short and sweet; they move only forward, from event to event, as you say; they don’t contain flashbacks or other devices for re-ordering time; and there’s no pause in them for reflection or commentary or explorations of meaning. Those things exist outside the story, to be provoked by it.

DS: Helen believes abjection and confession are transformative. But why doesn’t Ben’s abject apology toward the beginning of the book work on Helen? Does he need to atone as well as apologize?

JD: She’s too angry, at that point, to accept it. And she stays angry with him for a long time; she’s been wronged and humiliated by him, so she can’t bring to his case the same sort of objectivity she brings to the dilemmas of her clients. As for Ben, being a lawyer I think he understands too well the negotiability of words; he knows that the road back for him will be about repenting not in speech but in service. He just has to hang around long enough to learn what that service will be.

DS: Public relations has cynicism built into it. It is brilliant and slightly perverse to posit such a sincere person as a public relations savant. Where did the idea come from?

JD: In order to describe a particular subculture, you might want to portray people who are typical or representative of that subculture; but to dramatize it, to make it an interesting setting for a story, you want to bring someone anomalous into that setting, to see how she conforms to it, and it to her.

DS: Did you read a lot of tabloids when you decided to write about crisis management? Public scandal is now so performed and mediated—did the machinations behind these events fascinate you? How do you know so much about it?

JD: What I read, mostly, were memoirs, first-person accounts written by veterans of the crisis-management industry. That’s always the most productive research—research into tone, into voice. Facts are nice too, but facts are more raw material than creative inspiration.

“A page turner . . . What a triumph.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Reader’s Guide: TELL THE WOLVES I’M HOME by Carol Rifka Brunt

Monday, May 13th, 2013

RifkaBrunt_Tell the WolvesTell the Wolves I’m Home, A Novel by Carol Rifka Brunt

A Reader’s Guide

A Conversation with Elin Hilderbrand and Carol Rifka Brunt

ELIN HILDERBRAND lives on Nantucket with her husband and their three young children. She grew up in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, and traveled extensively before settling on Nantucket, which has been the setting for her eight previous novels. Hilderbrand is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the graduate fiction workshop at the University of Iowa.

Elin Hilderbrand: I am always asked at the start of every interview where I get my inspiration for each novel I write. Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a beautiful, haunting story about a young girl dealing with the death of her uncle from AIDS. What was the seed of thought that got you started?

Carol Rifka Brunt: I’ve found over the years that if I’m truly immersed in writing fiction—even if it’s a story that isn’t working at all—the subconscious starts to offer up its secrets. I was working on some short stories when the image of a dying uncle (I had no idea it was AIDS at the time) painting a final portrait of his niece came to me. I could see the apartment; I could sense the reluctance of the niece. I could also sense that there was a much bigger story behind what I understood initially. Usually, if a scene or idea keeps coming back to me over the course of months (or sometimes even years) there’s something there. There’s something nagging to be worked out. That was very much the case with this idea. I had several unsuccessful shots at writing the scene, until one day June’s voice was there and I knew I had my way in: I’d hit on the heart of the story.

EH: It’s not unusual for an author’s debut to be a coming-of-age novel—and yet it’s also hard to make this kind of story fresh and original. Were you conscious of this as you wrote? What is your favorite coming-of-age novel and how did that book influence you?

CRB: I actually didn’t think of this as a coming-of-age story for a long time. I saw it more as an unlikely friendship story between June and Toby. Since June is fourteen, and the events of the novel are life-changing, the novel automatically becomes a coming-of-age story. In fact, it seems every novel with a teen narrator is labeled coming-of-age, and I’m not sure if I fully agree with that. It has the effect of ghettoizing all teen-narrated stories. If the same events happened to a slightly older narrator, the book would just be called fiction. I actually had to go back and make the coming-of-age element more apparent because it really wasn’t a big part of my way of thinking about this novel.

June’s voice was there right from the start, so I always knew it would be narrated by a teen. To use a teen as the lens to see AIDS in the eighties wasn’t something I’d seen before, so I didn’t worry so much about freshness or originality. If you always see your characters and their places and concerns as individual and specific, then I think you will always end up with something unique. As soon as you start thinking about the work and characters in terms of labels—such as “teen” or “coming-of-age”—that’s when you risk slipping into more stereotypical territory.

After all of that, I have to admit that a lot of my favorite books are coming-of-age stories. I love Skellig by David Almond, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. I always say that every book I’ve ever read influences my writing in one way or another. I really hoped to create a book with emotional resonance, something readers would connect to, and the novels I’ve mentioned all do that very well. They were a real inspiration in that way.

EH: One of my favorite things about Tell the Wolves I’m Home is the setting in time and place—-New York City and its bedroom communities in the 1980s during the height of the AIDS epidemic. Your details are keenly observed. What kind of research did you do?

CRB: The one thing I didn’t want to do was write an autobiographical first novel. Let alone an autobiographical coming-of-age novel. Such a cliché! And yet, as I started writing, the gravitational pull of my own place, my own time, seemed to become irresistible. I started with an idea that was entirely not autobiographical and inch by inch it dragged me back to Westchester in the eighties—the place I grew up, the place I lived when I was June’s age. So, to answer your question, I didn’t do very much research at all into time and place. Writing can sometimes work like a time machine. You think you don’t remember the fine details of a place from your past, but as you write the most surprising things come out. Things like a Fred Flintstone grape jelly jar drinking glass or Bonne Bell lip gloss. Things you never knew you still stored in your brain.

Once I understood that AIDS was the illness Finn had, New York in the eighties felt like the best place I could set it. Once I came to terms with writing about a place I knew, it became such a liberating thing. I was able to really inhabit the setting in a way that allowed it to be a seamless part of the whole story.

EH: One of the most interesting relationships in this novel is the one between June and her sister Greta. The sister relationship is nearly always an emotional tango—complicated and lovely. Can you talk a little bit about how this relationship developed for you over the course of writing the book?

CRB: I’m very much an organic writer in that I don’t know a lot about how the story will develop until I get there. Greta started off as the cruel older sister. I really enjoyed writing her mean, quippy -dialogue, but I didn’t know if or how she would redeem herself over the course of the book. Getting Greta’s storyline right was actually one of the most difficult aspects of writing this novel. She’s self-destructive, mean, and—although talented and successful in so many ways—clearly struggling with herself. I always knew I wanted to avoid a big “Ta-da!” moment where Greta revealed some external reason for being such a tortured soul. I didn’t think this novel could take an announcement of pregnancy or an affair with a teacher (quite a few readers have said they wondered about Greta and her drama teacher) or any other “big issue” kind of rationale for her behavior. There was no way there could be enough room in this book to do anything like that with the depth and justice it would deserve, and it would have swung the story too far away from the one I wanted to tell. What I did remember so clearly from when I was a teen was how the smallest of problems could seem hugely magnified. So, rather than one big reason for her behavior, I wanted Greta to suffer from a slow mounting of smaller situations. More erosion than explosion.

Although Greta always knows more than June, I think June is the wiser one. She despises Greta at times, but underneath it we still see how much she cares for her. At times it’s frustrating to see. I think as a reader you want to tell her to give up on Greta, but she can never quite do it.

EH: I love how June’s parents are reminiscent of the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons—they are a bit like wonky voices heard from offscreen for most of the book. June and Greta are left to largely raise themselves. And yet, at the end of the novel, we learn more about how June’s mother was emotionally tied to her brother. She struggles with accepting Finn’s homosexuality, lifestyle, and love for Toby. What was it like to write from the point of view of a character who is initially so intolerant?

CRB: I’ve had feedback from readers who have said that they really disliked Danni. That they thought she was responsible for all the hurt in the story. I never felt that way about her. I loved all of the characters in Tell the Wolves. Danni’s jealousy never felt anything but human to me, something that anyone could feel. This may not come across fully in the novel, but I never thought Danni really had a problem with Finn’s homosexuality. In my mind, she used that as a way to hurt him, to redress the sense of abandonment she felt when Finn left her behind all those years ago. By forcing him to exclude Toby from his relationship with Greta and June (on the pretense of not wanting to expose her daughters to that kind of “lifestyle”) she’s able to wield a small amount of power over him. To me, it always felt like a sad and desperate thing to do, rather than a fully cruel thing. “You can’t have everything,” she says in the book, and she wants to make that true for Finn, the way she felt he had made it true for her. Unfortunately for Toby, he ends up as a pawn in all of this. He’s the one who ends up hurt the most by her actions.

EH: Your use of Finn’s painting, and the ways the girls amend, are nothing short of brilliant. What is your background in art? How did you get the idea to use the painting as a form of dialogue between people who couldn’t speak to one another honestly face-to-face?

CRB: I always wish I had a better answer to questions like this, but, again, the whole idea of the painting being visited by the two girls was such an organic thing. As a writer, you’re always asking, “What if?” I knew as soon as Greta was handed the other key to the safety deposit box and dismissively said she’d never visit that she wasn’t telling the truth. What if they’re both going down to see the painting? What if they’re both trying to leave their mark there? The idea of using the portrait as a way for the girls to “speak” to each other sprung from those initial thoughts. The portrait almost functions like a continuing version of Finn—a beautiful and beloved thing that both pulls the sisters together and tears them apart.

I also wanted to give the book a slightly magical feel. The portrait and its vault, like the basement space in Finn’s apartment building, and the woods at night, all have a little bit of that sense. They are places and objects that are real in the story but function a little bit outside the world of true realism.

As for my background in art, I can’t really claim much beyond spectator status. I took as much art as I could in high school, but I can’t say I was very good. The idea of negative space is something I remember from my high school art teacher, actually. While writing Tell the Wolves I’m Home, I made several trips to the National Portrait Gallery in London just to look and get a sense of where the power comes from in the best portraits.

EH: Who are your favorite authors? What are your reading habits?

CRB: I seem to have about seven or eight books on the go at any one time. Of those, I might finish two or three. Favorites are always shifting and changing, but over the last few years it seems that a lot of my favorite books have been nonfiction. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick, The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, Stuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters, to name a few.

EH: Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a triumph. I love being excited by an author’s debut work, because most times the writing only gets deeper and richer. Are you working on something new?

CRB: Thank you very much. Tell the Wolves started out as a very short story. As soon as I finished I knew there was a lot more to tell. Right now I’m working on a number of short pieces, one of which feels like it’s headed in the same direction. It seems I need to trick my brain into writing a novel. I wish I were the type of writer who could come up with a solid outline and write from there, but it seems I’m the sort who needs to make many, many false starts before finding the real story. It’s a pretty slow process, but along the way there are so many unbelievably satisfying “Aha!” moments: wonderful little epiphanies when a character’s motivation becomes achingly clear, when a line of dialogue becomes suddenly loaded with meaning, when my conscious mind realizes what my unconscious was doing all along—that I’m not sure I’d really want to do it any other way.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Toby initiates a relationship with June that necessarily involves secrets kept from her parents. Can this ever be right? Is it ever okay for an adult to have a secret relationship with a child, even if it’s formed out of the best of intentions?

2. Every relationship in the book is tinged with jealousy and/or envy. How is this played out in each of the relationships? Can jealousy ever be a positive thing? Does loving someone too much always lead to jealousy?

3. How do you feel about Danni, June’s mother? How much is she to blame for the events in the book?

4. What did you make of June’s special feelings for Finn? Have you ever felt the wrong kind of love for someone in your own life?

5. “The sun kept on with its slipping away, and I thought how many small good things in the world might be resting on the shoulders of something terrible” (page 233). How does this speak to the events in Tell the Wolves I’m Home? Can terrible things like AIDS result in good?

6. “You get into habits. Ways of being with certain people” (page 206). Toby says this to June when they’re talking about her relationship with Greta. Many sisters (and brothers) have fractious relationships as teenagers, then grow up to be friends. Do you think that will be the case with Greta and June? Have you had an experience like this with your own sibling(s)?

7. If you remember the late eighties, do you remember anything about your perception of AIDS and the fear surrounding the disease?

8. How has society’s reaction to homosexuality changed over the last twenty–five years? How would this story have been different if it took place in 2012?

9. Greta is older, savvier, and knows more than June, but June sometimes seems wiser than her sister. How is this so? Does knowledge equal wisdom?

10. Do you think June will ever show Greta the secret basement room and the stash of Finn’s paintings, or will she always keep this to herself?

11. Do you blame June for what happens to Toby toward the end of the book? Do you think June will ever forgive herself for what happened that night?

12. Do you think the portrait was more beautiful before or after it was restored to its original state? Can a work of art be improved by external additions, or is the artist’s vision and intention the most important aspects of art?

13. June would like to escape to the Middle Ages. All her favorite places are escapist in nature. Would June actually be happy if her wish of time travel were granted? How does that wish change over the course of the story? Is escapism ever valuable? How do you escape?

14. Of all the themes in the novel (love, loss, regret, family relationships, etc.), which one do you think is the most important and why?

Giveaway Opportunity: THE HOPE FACTORY by Lavanya Sankaran

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Sankaran_The Hope Factory Book clubs and readers are raving about The Hope Factory by debut novelist Lavanya Sankaran:

“I will definitely recommend it to my book club.” -Wanda T.

“The storytelling is first rate. I hated to see the book end.” -Barbara B.

“The writing is lovely.” -Betty M.

“The Hope Factory contains everything on my literary wish list.” -GoodReads

With humor, intelligence, and masterly prose, Lavanya Sankaran’s debut novel brilliantly captures the vitality and danger of a newly industrialized city and how it shapes the dreams and aspirations of two very different families.

Anand is a Bangalore success story: successful, well married, rich. At least, that’s how he appears. But if his little factory is to grow, he needs land and money, and, in the New India, neither of these is easy to find.

Kamala, Anand’s family’s maid, lives perilously close to the edge of disaster. She and her clever teenage son have almost nothing, and their small hopes for self-betterment depend on the contentment of Anand’s wife: a woman to whom whims come easily.

But Kamala’s son keeps bad company, and Anand’s marriage is in trouble. The murky world where crime and land and politics meet is a dangerous place for a good man, particularly one on whom the well-being of so many depends.

Rich with irony and compassion, Lavanya Sankaran’s The Hope Factory affirms her gifts as a born storyteller with remarkable prowess, originality, and wisdom.

Enter below for your chance to win!

A Letter to Book Clubs from Janice Steinberg

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Steinberg_The Tin HorseDear Readers,

I recently encountered the appealing idea of “watershed books”–books that get you through a rough time. In a study in Britain, people said they chose classics like Pride and Prejudice and One Hundred Years of Solitude. My watersheds were also classics–the noir mystery novels of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, which I read out of a desire to identify with tough, fearless protagonists.

Alas, reading noir fiction did not make me tough. Among the hard-boiled men and fast women, there was just one, very marginal character with whom I felt a kinship: an unnamed woman in Chandler’s The Big Sleep. Philip Marlowe, the detective, wants information about a sleazy Hollywood bookseller. He enters a legitimate bookstore and flashes a badge at the woman working there, and she and Marlowe engage in crisp intellectual parrying, in which she gives as good as she gets.

The woman is reading a law book, which is intriguing in itself in a novel published in 1939. And she’s described as having “the fine-drawn face of an intelligent Jewess,” a phrase that struck me with its profound sense of otherness, as if she lived in a very different Los Angeles than Marlowe. And I felt hungry to know more about this nameless woman. What was her story? What was her Los Angeles?

Like many novelists, I love doing research, and I began by exploring the second question: what was her Los Angeles? I discovered Boyle Heights, a neighborhood east of downtown that, in the 1920s and 30s, was the Jewish part of L.A. As I was researching, I started hearing the woman’s voice in my mind–not as the young woman in the bookstore but as a vibrant, opinionated octogenarian. She was talking to a young person–an archivist? So she’d had a life, perhaps related to the law book she was reading, that merited archiving. And I gave her a name: Elaine Greenstein.

Then came the difficult question: what was her story? I’m an outliner by nature. I like to know where I’m going. But Elaine’s story resisted my attempts to lay it out in advance. And if that pushed me into a disorienting limbo, it was also liberating. When I started writing about Elaine’s childhood, what came out first was her grandfather’s story. I discovered that she lived within a fabric of stories, some of dubious veracity, and ultimately that led to the idea at the core of the book: that we construct our reality and give meaning to our lives by the stories we tell–and believe–about ourselves. In a sense, they’re our personal watersheds.

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Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, interviews Téa Obreht about The Tiger’s Wife

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

JenniferEgan9780307477477Jennifer Egan is the recipient of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel A Visit from the Goon Squad, which was also awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is the author of The Keep, Look at Me, The Invisible Circus, and the story collection Emerald City. Her stories have been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, GQ, Zoetrope: All-Story, and Ploughshares, and her nonfiction appears frequently in The New York Times Magazine. She lives with her husband and sons in Brooklyn.

The following is an excerpt. To read the complete interview, click here.

JE: One of the central powerful relationships in the book is between Natalia and her grandfather: it’s not the type of relationship we usually see as the primary relationship in a novel.  Could you talk a little about that grandparent-grandchild relationship, your feelings about it in your own life and how it became central in this novel?

TO: I grew up with my grandparents on my mother’s side, and they essentially raised me.  As a kid, you resist the idea of your own parents having had lives and pasts of their own.  Snuff me out if I’m wrong here, but I see that as something prevalent in your novel A Visit From the Goon Squad: a sense of the parent-child relationship being very tense and of children not wanting to live in their parents’ shadow.  When you’re growing up, the lives of your parents aren’t that fascinating, but there is this fascination with grandparents.  Because of that great amount of time that has passed between their youth and yours, and the fact that they lived entire lives before you even got there, you can’t really deny their identity as individuals prior to your existence they way perhaps you can with your parents.  There’s also an awareness that the world was very different when they were living their lives.

JE: Animals play such an enormous role in the novel: the tiger, the dog, Sonia the elephant, Dari?a who seems to be part-human, part-bear. You write so movingly about animals that I found myself close to tears every time you wrote about the tiger from the tiger’s point of view.  Do you have a strong connection to animals in your life?  How is it that animals end up figuring so enormously in this story?

obreht_teaThe Tiger's Wife NBA sealTO: I’m definitely, it turns out, the kind of person who’s a total National Geographic nerd.  I’m there for all the TV specials.  As I’ve gotten older I think my awareness of the natural world and animals’ relationship to people – both culturally and biologically – has grown.  It was fun to write from the point of view of the tiger, and emotionally rewarding, but I think the animals also serve almost as markers around which the characters have to navigate.  I don’t think that was something I did consciously, it just sort of happened.  There is something jarring about seeing an animal out of place: there’s a universal feeling of awe when you see an animal, particularly an impressive animal, out of place.

JE: There are really two worlds in the book which mingle and sometimes intersect: there’s the present day political, medical, scientific situation in which Natalia operates, and then there’s this more mystical, folkloric world of the grandfather’s past.  How did these define themselves in your mind?  Was it hard to move between them?

TO: Pretty early on in the writing I realized that mythmaking and storytelling are a way in which people deal with reality.  They’re a coping mechanism.  In Balkan culture, there’s almost a knowledge that reality will eventually become myth.  In ten or twenty years you will be able to recount what happened today with more and more embellishments until you’ve completely altered that reality and funneled it into the world of myth.

Watch a video: Téa answers questions about The Tiger’s Wife
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Téa Obreht answers questions about The Tiger’s Wife

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Read Tea’s interview with Jennifer Egan
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George Bishop, author of LETTER TO MY DAUGHTER, on writing from a woman’s point of view

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Letter to My DaughterDuring visits to bookstores and book clubs, I’ve often been asked by readers how I was able to write Letter to My Daughter from a woman’s point of view. Obviously, I’m not a woman, and I don’t even have a daughter. So how did I manage to get inside the narrator’s head and skin, both the adult Laura (who’s anxiously awaiting word from her runaway daughter) and the teenage Laura (who’s falling in love for the very first time)? How did I realistically portray what she felt and thought at two very different moments in her life?

First of all, I should admit that what I’ve done isn’t that unusual in fiction. Look at any novel written in the standard omniscient third person (he said, she said, they said), and you’ll see that the author likely speaks through a whole world of characters who do not share his or her gender, let alone age, nationality, race, or profession. James Patterson does this. Dan Brown does this. J. K. Rowling does this. (Stephanie Meyer doesn’t.)

Still, I understand how readers might wonder how a writer can pull off this kind of ventriloquist act. For me, the challenge lies not so much in capturing the larger emotions of a person or situation, but in rendering the smaller idiosyncratic thoughts and gestures of a character.

bishop_georgeThink of universal feelings such as hope, fear, fury, jealousy, love. I’m convinced that people everywhere, no matter their gender, no matter their environment, experience these feelings the same way. The frustration felt by a billionaire Wall Street banker unable to close a deal is the same as the frustration felt by a Mumbai rickshaw driver who’s stuck in traffic and can’t get to his fare. In Letter to My Daughter, it wasn’t that difficult for me to wiggle into these broader feelings that Laura has—her anguish, her regret, her joy. I know those feelings. We all do.

The hard part, though, is in getting the particulars right. What features, for example, does a fifteen-year-old girl notice when she looks at a boy she admires? I’m pretty sure they’re not the same features that a boy notices when he looks at a girl. Or how does a teenage girl react when she’s being grounded by her parents—her actions, her thoughts, her arguments—as opposed to how I might have reacted in a similar situation when I was a teenager?

This is where the real work of fiction writing comes in. For me, the only way to accomplish it is through deep and careful imagining. I try to put myself in that person’s skin and see, hear, and feel what they see, hear, and feel, from the inside out, as it were. The danger always, the lazy way to do it, is to write from the outside in—to sketch a generalized picture of “a teenage girl having a fight with her parents,” for instance, by using what we’ve all seen before in books or movies or on TV.

Of course, writing from the inside out of a character is still no guarantee that I, or any writer, will get the details right. But when, by happenstance and deep imagining, this kind of writing succeeds, the result is that we as readers forget for a moment who we are, who the writer is, and even where we are, and for a few blissful pages we’re able to disappear completely into a different body in a different world.

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