The newly crowned National Book Award winner for fiction tells us about his pad in New York City, being able to write anywhere, and rewriting everything—even his emails.
I understand that I’ve caught you in the midst of a visit to the National Stamp Museum in DC?I’m doing an appearance here in DC. I had an hour and a half to blow, so I decided to pop into the museum, take a look around. You’re always hunting for ideas, you know?Congratulations on winning the National Book Award.I was eating an apple tart. Then they announced my book. I was stunned. Pretty surprised. I went to accept the award, and I was still holding my dinner napkin in my hand.
The influential evolutionary biologist and fierce defender of atheism on his first memories, three books he’d recommend, and having to write 3,000 words before he’d call a day productive.
What is an early and vibrant memory of yours, from growing up in Kenya?I left Kenya when I was two, so not many memories. I have a picture in my head of my father coming on leave from the army, and my recognizing him by his brown shoes. My family later moved to Nyasaland, now Malawi, and we lived there until I was seven. I remember lots from those times, but especially vivid were the yellow and black swallowtail butterflies and the taste of nasturtium leaves.
The famed geographer, whose latest book ‘The World Until Yesterday’ is out in paperback, discusses bird-watching, the size of his computer, why he wants to bring Bach back to life, and why you shouldn’t write a book until you have tenure.
Describe your morning routine.My morning on any day, regardless of whether I’m writing or not, is the same. I get up around 6am, and I go for a bird walk on my street. I live in a dead end rural canyon in Los Angeles, which is very good for bird-watching. I just came back ten minutes ago from my morning walk, which lasts between an hour and a half and two hours. My bird list for my street is 149 species! Pretty good, by North American standards.
The ‘Girl With a Pearl Earring’ author talks about works of art that inspire her, watching Scarlett Johansson—and the ‘Breaking Bad’ finale.
Describe your morning routine. Okay. This is assuming I’m having a productive writing day! A lot of the time that doesn’t happen. A good day? I get up, I wake my teenage son up, we have breakfast, and he leaves at 8. That’s the cue for me to go to my office. My writing life has shifted slightly over the years, but what works best for me now is if I start writing immediately. I’ll check my email to make sure there’s nothing I need to deal with right away, then I read what I’ve written the day before.
America’s most cited legal scholar, Judge Richard Posner, talks about his compulsive writing, what’s guaranteed to make him laugh, and his passion for cats.
Describe your morning routine.I don’t really have any routines. Well, if I’m at home or in the office I have a desk and a computer. And I write. I’ve never thought in terms of any particular routine. There are a lot of interruptions, emails and so on. Whenever I have free time, I write. Judicial opinions or academic stuff. I don’t have any quota of words. I understand full-time novelists, say, they will want to do a certain amount of words a day in order to finish a book.
The ‘Bel Canto’ author, whose new book is ‘This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage,’ talks about her friendship with Elizabeth Gilbert, and owning an independent bookstore.
NC: What’s your favorite thing about Nashville, and where should I eat when I visit? AP: My favorite thing about Nashville is the parks. We have these amazing parks that were park of the WPA in the 1930s. Great trails through the woods. And you should definitely eat at my house NC: That’s a great offer. I might take you up on it. Tell me about Sparky. AP: Yeah, he’s right here napping. We’ve had him a year. We got him out of the humane shelter on September 14, a year ago, and he’s just an astonishing dog.
The ‘Presumed Innocent’ author, whose new legal thriller is ‘Identical,’ talks about law school, being member of a band made up of superstar authors, and being able to practice law while he writes novels.
NC: Where did you grow up? ST: I grew up on the north side of Chicago, in West Rogers Park, an overwhelmingly Jewish neighborhood. When I was 13, my parents moved to Winnetka, Illinois, an upper class, WASPy suburb where Jews—as well as Blacks and Catholics—were unwelcome on many blocks. I suffered the spiritual equivalent of whiplash. NC: Where’s the best steak in Chicago?ST: At my house, cooked on my Big Green Egg over lump charcoal and mesquite.
Allan Gurganus’s debut novel, ‘Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All,’ became an instant classic when it was published in 1989. In his long-awaited follow-up, ‘Local Souls,’ Gurganus returns to Falls, NC, to present three novellas about the new South. He talks to Noah Charney about using different handwriting for his manuscripts, why he doesn’t outline, and how he made his father proud.
NC: Where did you grow up? AG: I was born in Rocky Mount, NC. The town of 24,000 proved a great place to spend the first 17 years of life. But, after that, onward, outward. NC: Where and what did you study? AG: After a sound public education, I attended Penn and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. After being drafted into the military and studying Indonesian, I emerged as a writer, not a painter. I then worked with Grace Paley at Sarah Lawrence and John Cheever and Stanley Elkin and John Irving at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
The acclaimed Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood talks with Noah Charney about her writing routine, how she invented an electronic pen, and her stint as a hockey goalie.
NC: Describe your morning routine. MA: I’d be lucky to have a morning routine! But let’s pretend… I’d get up in the morning, have breakfast, have coffee, then go upstairs to the room where I write. I’d sit down and probably start transcribing from what I’d [hand]written the day before. NC: Is there anything distinctive or unusual about the room in which you write? MA: I’m not often in a set writing space. I don’t think there’s anything too unusual about it, except that it’s full of books and has two desks.
With her new novel getting rave reviews, the ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ author is ready to confess that she doesn’t meditate—and she has a chewing gum addiction.
NC: Describe your morning routine.EG: Okay, well my morning routine on a day when I’m writing is very different from my routine on a day I’m not writing. So when I’m writing, my routine begins the night before. I had a meditation teacher who used to say that your meditation starts the night before. What time you go to bed is really important. When I’m writing, I tend to go to bed around 9 o’clock. That way I can get up by 4:30 or 5. My favorite time to write is between 5 to 10 a.
The author of the new novel ‘Dissident Gardens’ talks about the MacArthur ‘genius’ grant, being a Mets fan, and working in a walk-in closet.
NC: Describe your morning routine. JL: OK, so my morning routine. Well, my life is totally dictated by the presence of these two wonderfully little boys. I have a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old. They are insane early risers, which forces me to trump them. When I was writing Dissident Gardens, which was the last really good roll I got on, when I was in the full grip of it and needed to work substantially on it every day, I’d get up at 3 or 4 in the morning.
The bestselling author, whose new novel is ‘The Longest Ride,’ talks about watching TV while he writes, and how his films have changed his novels.
NC: Where do you live and why? NS: I live in New Bern, North Carolina. I choose to live here because, to me, it feels like home. I’ve lived here for 20 years. I love the geography, the genuine kindness of the people, the small-town atmosphere. It’s been a wonderful place to raise my children. NC: Where’s the best barbecue in North Carolina? NS: Yeah, well it’s easy: the Eastern Carolina barbecue, with the vinegar and the red pepper on your pulled pork! Moore’s Barbecue, here in New Bern, is fabulous, one of the great old-time, smoked pulled-pork joints.
The author of the new novel ‘Traveling Sprinkler’ talks about ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ Wikipedia, and writing in the car.
NC: Where did you grow up? NB: We moved from New York City to Rochester, New York, when I was 2. I went to public schools there and rode my bike a lot, and then I spent a year at the Eastman School of Music on Main Street, where I played the bassoon and wrote short compositions—modernistic but tonal. Where do you live and why? My wife, Margaret, and I live in a small town in Maine, about 20 minutes from the coast. Maine’s slogan is “The Way Life Should Be,” and it’s true.
The Dickens of the Ozarks talks jazz, how his first book was published, and what he always carries with him. His latest novel, the first since 2006’s ‘Winter’s Bone,’ is ‘The Maid’s Version,’ about a deadly dance-hall fire in 1929 Missouri and the maid who thinks she knows what caused it.
NC: Where did you grow up? DW: Missouri, mostly, with 18 months between ages 15 and 17 spent a mile or three into Kansas. Born in the Ozarks, but dad had to go north to find a good job, so I went to school and all in St. Charles, a great old river town in which to be a rambunctious boy. My family has been resident in the Ozarks since well before the war (guess which war), about 1838 or so, but I am now the last member of my family living in Howell County.
The Polish-born writer, whose new novel is ‘Memories of a Marriage,’ talks about WWII and what he thought of the movie version of ‘About Schmidt.’
Where did you grow up?I was born in 1933 in a town called Stryj in the eastern part of Poland which is now Ukraine, and lived there until I was 7 and a half. During the rest of WWII, and until the fall of 1946, I lived successively in Lwów, Warsaw, and Kraków, with a spell between Warsaw and Kraków in the Mazowsze, a remote Polish countryside. My first novel, Wartime Lies, draws on memories of my life in that period. In March 1947, I arrived with my parents in New York City and did the rest of my “growing up” there.
Every week, we interview writers about their daily routine and where they keep their desks.
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