9 Insightful Interviews
- December 26, 2018
Miss these Q&As the first time around? Check ‘em out now!
We published dozens of fascinating author interviews this past year and encourage you to read all of them. These nine, though, were especially enlightening and/or timely.
Jeffrey C. Stewart, author of The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke (Oxford University Press). Interview by Joye Shepperd. “I do think that biographers are engaged in a balancing act between adhering closely to the primary sources like letters but also having to use their imagination to see their subject almost like a character in a movie, if nothing else to ascertain a subject’s motivation. With Alain Locke, there is the additional complexities of the life of a man full of contradictory impulses and desires whose own life is a complex balancing act. I felt I had to ruminate on many aspects of his life — and especially criticisms of him during his life and afterwards — in order to do justice to him and his context.”
Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage (Algonquin Books). Interview by Adriana Delgado. “I realized that I had never considered myself as ‘American’ without ‘African’ or ‘black’ in front of it. To claim the title, I had to have a personal reckoning with myself about what it means to be American. I decided to claim this for my characters both as an expression of ownership — full ownership, not hyphenated ownership — of this country, and also as a criticism of the same country. After all, this tragedy that befalls Celestial and Roy is distinctly American, as the U.S. imprisons more of its citizens than any other developed country.”
David Shields, author of Nobody Hates Trump More Than Trump: An Intervention (Thought Catalog Books). Interview by Cathy Alter. “I’m interested in what’s interesting, as Jean Rhys said. I’m interested, as she was, in the self-destructiveness of the human animal. Trump has been building for this moment his entire life — his unraveling. I wanted to explain why he wants to finally feel something authentic (he’s a dead man walking and has been since childhood). America loves that about him, because most of us are numb, as well (American life has become unlivable in any real sense), and we elected — in my view — Trump in order to watch the mask come off. It's coming off…tomorrow…or the next day…or the day after that.”
Tom Pollock, author of This Story Is a Lie (Soho Teen). Interview by Craig Laurance Gidney. “I am aware of #ownvoices, and I know that the treatment of anxiety disorders in This Story Is a Lie has been called #ownvoices [representative]. If you want me to talk about #ownvoices more generally, I want to recognize that it’s complex, and I am not expert in all those complexities.”
Seymour Hersh, author of Reporter: A Memoir (Knopf). Interview by Michael Causey. “I came from what I guess you could call the Golden Age, when there was money and there was time to do stories, and there was no competition from the internet or from cable news. Everything's so speeded up today and so herky-jerky, and the mere fact that cable news operates on a 24-hour, got-to-be-fed system makes them so vulnerable to running propaganda and straight-out bull. Trump has mastered this with the tweets. He's figured out exactly what they want. They want to be fed.”
Nathaniel Philbrick, author of Second Wind: A Sunfish Sailor, an Island, and the Voyage That Brought a Family Together (Penguin). Interview by Michael Causey. “At the time, when it was happening, who knew what was going on? I was feeling an excitement and kind of a daredevil need to go out and prove myself in some way. Now, almost 25 years later, looking back, I can see it was really an awakening. I sort of, for the first time, knew what I wanted to do as a writer. Up until then, I had tried a lot of different kinds of writing, but nothing had really settled in.”
Brad Meltzer, author of The Escape Artist (Grand Central Publishing). Interview by Michael Causey. “And I'm not smart enough where I know that theme [in a book] when I start. No, I'm a moron. But I'm good at finding the theme when I'm done. And when I'm done, I always can find it in my own life. Always. Every book. What am I worried about here? Oh, I'm like, that book was about me and my dead parents. Holy cow, how did I not even see that? It's why the books save me from therapy.”
Daniel Ellsberg, author of The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner (Bloomsbury USA). Interview by Michael Causey. “Well, without knowing it, we had made a doomsday machine. Nobody knew that for another 20 years, but we have known it now for about 35 years, since 1983, and our planning has not reflected that at all. The weapons that both Russia and the U.S. are planning to buy now are directed, in theory, toward reducing damage to ourselves in a nuclear war by hitting and counterforce attacks, hitting the ICBMs, basically, and the command and control of the opponent. Actually, that would have no effect. The cities that would burn from the submarine-launched missiles and the ICBMs that weren't hit would wipe out the attacker as well as the attacked and everybody else inside of a year. It wouldn't be immediate, but by nuclear famine.”
Tina Alexis Allen, author of Hiding Out: A Memoir of Drugs, Deception, and Double Lives (Dey Street Books). Interview by Cathy Alter. “I’ve always felt that my story is bigger than the players in it. The themes I explore are what’s most important to me. Knowing my purpose for the book — for it to be a potential mirror for others to examine their own shame, secrets, family struggles, and obstacles to freedom — gave me permission to trust the process of writing such a personal and detailed account of my life.”