A writer whose each and every book has deeply engaged readers here and elsewhere, David Mitchell, author of the novels
Ghostwritten, Number9dream, Cloud Atlas, Black Swan Green, and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, makes a most welcome Seattle return for his much-anticipated new novel, The Bone Clocks (Random House). “A globe-trotting, time-bending epic that touches down in, among other places, England, Switzerland, Iraq, and Australia… Is The Bone Clocks the most ambitious novel ever written, or just the most Mitchell-esque? … From gritty realism to far-out fantasy, each section has its own charm and surprises. With is wayward thoughts, chance meetings, and attention to detail, Mitchell’s novel is a thing of beauty …” – Publishers Weekly. $35 tickets (which admit one person and include a copy of The Bone Clocks) are available now at Elliott Bay Book Company (also by phone at 206.624.6600 or online by following this link). Town Hall Seattle is at 1119 Eighth Avenue (at Seneca).
Coming in October:
– Sam Harris visits Town Hall Seattle in conversation with Dan Savage on Wednesday, October 1st discussing his new book Waking Up: Spirituality Without Religion. Tickets ($30; admits one person and includes one copy of the book) are now on sale.
Waking Up goes on sale on Tuesday, September 9th. Pre-order your copy today!
– Joseph O’Neil visits the Seattle Public Central Library on Wednesday, October 1st to read from his new novel
The Dog. Pre-order your copy.
– Eimar McBride reads from her debut novel
A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing on Thursday, October 23rd. Pre-order your copy.
– Jodi Picoult visits the Seattle Public Central Library on Friday, October 24th to read from her new novel
Leaving Time. Pre-order your copy.
– If you are unable to attend an author event you can call us at (206) 624-6600, email us at email@example.com, or visit our website to request an autographed copy.
Mark Kurlansky and Talia Kurlansky join us in the bookstore at 7:00 pm on Monday, August 25th to discuss their new cookbook, International Night: A Father and Daughter Cook Their Way Around the World.
After having written so many books on food related topics (Cod, Salt and The Big Oyster, to name just a few), it’s not surprising (but certainly a pleasure) to have in hand Mark Kurlansky’s first cookbook, International Night: A Father and Daughter Cook Their Way Around the World (Bloomsbury), written with his daughter, Talia Kurlansky. Their recipes for 52 special, multicourse meals are accompanied by stories and insights from the elder Kurlansky’s world travels and drawn from techniques he learned as a professional chef and from his many years of talking with chefs, producers and household cooks, including his daughter. And, each recipe is designed to be cooked with the assistance of children. Kurlansky is the author of many books and has made many appearances at Elliott Bay. This will be co-author Talia Kurlansky’s first appearance with us. She is an eighth grader in New York.
If you are unable to attend an author event you can call us at (206) 624-6600 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to request an autographed copy.
Written and illustrated by A.K. Summers, and based on her own experiences with pregnancy (in 2003), Pregnant Butch (Soft Skull) is a funny, insightful, and intensely personal look at the indignities of pregnancy and the discomforts of gender. Part adventure story, part riotous critique, this thoughtfully rendered, occasionally surreal, resolutely heterodox tale turns the traditional “what to expect when you’re expecting” narrative on its head. A.K. Summers, whose previous work included the zine Negativa, has been profiled in Vanity Fair, The Guardian and excerpted in The New York Times’ Motherlode Blog.
If you are unable to attend an author event you can call us at (206) 624-6600 or email us at email@example.com to request an autographed copy.
We adore her…for good reason! @ChelseaCain
BB: Let’s start with some background, I know that you and I share a Nancy Drew heritage, and I personally think it’s a crying shame that your Nancy Drew satire, Confessions of a Teen Sleuth, isn’t in active print any longer.
How does the early influence of things like the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Scooby Doo, et al influence your thriller writing today?
CC: I love the idea of a “Nancy Drew heritage,” like it some sort of recessive gene. I definitely have the Nancy Drew mutation on my eleventh chromosome. It was mysteries or nothing for me.
I really had zero interest in the books my friends were reading about girls who rode horses or girls who lived on prairies or girls who had to make friends at new schools (unless one of those friends was murdered and the girl had to investigate). I have branched out a little since then. I have even read whole books in which not a single character is menaced by a psychopath. But I don’t like writing them. High stakes drama is exciting, it reveals character, and when it’s done well it’s utterly absorbing. Everything else falls away. It’s a form of meditation, only with more cardiac activity. Also, notice that I have never written a standalone thriller. Honestly, I don’t really like to read standalone thrillers. Ideally, I like there to be at least three books in a series before I even pick it up. With a standalone anything can happen. But if there are sequels, you can enjoy the thrills with the pleasant comfort of knowing the main character probably won’t bleed out in the last chapter.
“I have even read whole books in which not a single character is menaced by a psychopath. ”
BB: One other question about influence: Your writing group has given rise to several well-know authors who aren’t exactly known for pulling any punches when it comes to their readers’ delicate sensibilities, our good friend Chuck being the most controversial. How has this camaraderie helped craft your present style?
CC: I have learned most of what I know about writing from the people around that table. They are my first audience and my dear friends. They are also all deeply disturbed, perverted, twisted individuals. There is no shocking them. You would not believe what we read out loud to one another on a weeknight. No shame whatsoever. It’s no wonder I have no censor function. But they are unerring in their feedback. Not individually – individually they have all given me terrible advice – but when they see something as a group I know I’m in trouble, and I listen. Correction, first I cry. Then I listen.
“They are also all deeply disturbed, perverted, twisted individuals.”
BB: So, enough about famous friends and titian-haired teenagers, let’s talk about One Kick.
I loved it! It’s edgy and dark while being incredibly fast paced. It’s rare for me to be able to become so invested in a character when I devour a novel in less than a day, but I am incredibly invested in Kick. What’s the compromise you make between pacing and character development? Is it even a conscious decision?
CC: I try not to segment it like that. Ideally the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Character can be revealed in all kinds of ways. A seat-of-your-pants fist fight can (and should) show you a lot about a character. So I guess the answer is that I don’t compromise. It’s not like I’m thinking ACTION, ACTION, ACTION, BUBBLEBATH.
“It’s not like I’m thinking ACTION, ACTION, ACTION, BUBBLEBATH. ”
Every scene has to carry its weight, and every scene has to serve the story. But it’s all just an excuse to explore character. It’s like solving a riddle. All the little details accrue. Patterns emerge. New information changes perspective on past events. (Can you tell I’ve been in therapy?) This book is third person, but it’s entirely in Kick’s POV, which is a departure from my other series. Writing a thriller in the head of a single character is hard. There’s no cutting away. We never know what other characters are thinking. We only see the world through Kick’s lens. Because we don’t have any other perspective to weigh in we have to know Kick well enough to know when she’s wrong. There’s no room for error. So I had to make every scene count. I wish I could say that it was all intuitive. But I have to work at character development. It takes layering. I don’t get it right the first time. Pacing is just maintaining tension. Once you crack which narrative tools to use, you can make just about any scene a page turner. Eating cereal can be terrifying. Character is so much trickier because it’s as much about what’s withheld as what’s shared.
“Eating cereal can be terrifying.”
BB:I really cannot praise the delicate balance between Kick’s fragility and toughness enough. This is a stunning portrait of a survivor. What research did you do to sculpt her character? Did you read the Elizabeth Smart book which gets name dropped in the novel? Was there any particular real-life victim you were modelling her after?
CC: Thank you! It was important to me that Kick be strong, but also vulnerable enough that we would root for her. She owes a lot to the stories of Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard. I followed every detail of both of those cases. Who doesn’t love a resurrection narrative? Those girls were presumed dead until the minute they were rescued. Elizabeth Smart grew up to be a wholesome, smartly-coiffed young woman. But wouldn’t it have been awesome if she’d learned how to shoot and throw knives and pick locks and she’d started responding to Amber Alerts?
BB: The network of pedophiles at the center of this thriller is chilling. How did you even go about looking into that world without locking your own children up safely inside 24/7? Does the fact that you’re a mother color this tale at all?
CC: Well I tried to avoid Googling “child pornography” for obvious reasons. This is harder than you might think if you’re trying to research child pornography cases. There was this article I had read in the NY Times that I was trying to find and I kept trying to use these euphemisms to find it, and was having no luck at all. Finally I Googled “New York Times Child Pornography” and it came right up. But it’s not like I was poking around in the dark corners of the Internet. The scary stuff is all from People Magazine and USA Today. It’s from the metro section of your local newspaper. These stories, when they do happen, blow up and I think they create a sense that the world is more dangerous than it is. Most kids who are abducted are not taken by strangers, and most kids who are sexually exploited know their abuser. I’m not worried about my kid being snatched by a guy in a van; I’m worried she’ll get skin cancer because I don’t put enough sunscreen on her. Statistically the latter is a lot more probable. For me the idea of a network of pedophiles, while scary, is also wishful thinking. A network is interconnected – that’s its vulnerability. Once you find a way in, you can bring down the whole evil enterprise. You just need an entry point. And a quick-witted avenging angel who can get past any lock.
“I’m not worried about my kid being snatched by a guy in a van; I’m worried she’ll get skin cancer because I don’t put enough sunscreen on her.”
BB: It seems like you might intend to bring us some more Kick (Two Kick?) in the future. Might this be true? Are we seeing a series being born?
CC: Look for book two at Elliott Bay Book Company in August, 2015.
An appearance at the Columbia City Theatre on Monday, July 21, brings renowned British musician (Everything But the Girl), composer, DJ, songwriter, and producer Ben Watt to Seattle for the release of his new solo album, Hendra. Watt will also visit Elliott Bay on his trip to read from and discuss his much-praised autobiographical book, Romany and Tom (Bloomsbury). ‘Both a personal journey and a portrait of my parents, Romany and Tom is a story of the post-war years, ambition and stardom, family roots and secrets, life in clubs and care homes. It is also about who we are, where we come from, and how we love and live with each other for a long time.’ “Neither sentimental nor savage, yet often wise, moving and entertaining within the same paragraph, Romany and Tom is a major achievement to rival any of Watt’s recordings.” – The Guardian. STG Presents Ben Watt at the Columbia City Theater (4916 Rainier Avenue S.) at 7 p.m. on Monday, July 21. See stgpresents.org for tickets/more information.
If you are unable to attend an author event you can call us at (206) 624-6600 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to request an autographed copy.
Hanging around the dead is not as interesting as it sounds, and as far as Leigh is concerned, having the bereaved as your clients leaves a lot to be desired. She’s stuck selling graves at her family’s cemetery and hasn’t been able to negotiate her way free of it. For the past few years she’s been one of her family’s sole supports, and as long as she works at the graveyard, her younger sister Kia can keep her normal life. Leigh’s decision, however, is not as simple as it seems on the surface. Not only did her dad uproot the family after he bought the cemetery without telling anyone, Leigh’s best friend died unexpectedly over the summer, and Dario, the new worker (and Leigh’s crush), is employed illegally. This book is a coming-of-age story that deals with greater issues of loss, opportunity, immigration, and what it means to find yourself buried beneath trauma.
I loved every moment of this story. You can pick it up in our store on August 26th!
For those of you not yet familiar with the inestimable Tai Moses, you’re in for an absolute treat. For those of you who already know Tai Moses (TM), it’s time to celebrate because she’s going to be in our store on June 30th for a reading!!! And, while you’re waiting for that, our bookseller Brandi Bailey (BB) interviewed her for your reading pleasure:
BB: The first question I need to ask you is, as you seem even more empathetic to nature and suffering than I am, how you keep yourself from just curling up in a little ball and crying your heart out?
TM: There are certainly times when I am tempted to curl up in a ball and cry; for instance, when I think about the wretched lives that cows, pigs and chickens endure at factory farms. However, there is something that helps me from feeling overwhelmed—and that is to act, to do something, to fight back in some way.
In Zooburbia I explore the ways in which compassion can be the basis for our actions in the world. The word compassion has Latin roots that translate to action andpassion. Technically, compassion is much more than just feeling sad about some heartbreaking thing you’ve read or seen—it means feeling the passion to act, and actually doing something to make it better.
For example, if you know of a dog who’s chained up in a yard, don’t just feel sorry for the dog: go talk to the dog’s owner, try to intervene, find out if there are anti-chaining laws in your community, politely educate the owner. I’m a big believer in taking matters into our own hands. Don’t wait for someone else to do something. Be that dog’s hero. There is always something we can do. You’ll find you start to feel a lot more powerful and a lot less like curling up and crying. And every time we speak up or take action on behalf of an animal, it helps to amplify and strengthen a larger vision of conscious concern for all animals.
BB: This book brought tears to my eyes every time you spoke about shelter animals but not as often when you talked about the wildlife. I’m sure a lot of people share that disconnect with me, and I’ve been re-evaluating my own outlook on wildlife since reading Zooburbia. Was that your intention when interspersing those topics? How do you handle people who insist that wild animals are not as worthy of their empathy as pets?
TM: In Zooburbia I wanted to tell stories about the lives of animals who are not beloved pets. The animals in Zooburbia are either wild or not wild but unowned and thus unloved, like shelter dogs and feral cats. Perhaps the reason many people feel less empathy for wildlife is because they are wild, we sort of expect their lives to be difficult. Whereas many of us have dogs and cats as family members, and the thought of their suffering is unbearable.
In our society, we’re conditioned to think of responsibility as linked to ownership. We’re responsible for the things and the people and the animals who belong to us. But I think this is an obsolete view. I believe that the wild animals who live around us and among us are a part of our communities, they are our wild neighbors and are deserving of our empathy. While no one owns them, we are still coresponsible for their well-being and safety.
So if your neighbor is putting out rat poison, try to explain to him—gently—that rat poison is going to harm not just rats, but dogs, cats, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, owls, hawks, and any animal who find the dead rat and eats it or carries it back to its nest.
BB: I really appreciated your honesty about loathing spiders. Bugs and insects are very hard for me to let be, and I’m nearly phobic of butterflies and moths. How’s the process of spider acceptance going? Any tricks for learning to accept the ickier creatures with an open heart?
TM: It’s an ongoing process. I still get the shivers from spiders, though I’d never kill one. I use a marvelous tool called a Snapy—a plastic wand with a clear plastic chamber at one end—to safely convey spiders from my house back outdoors. Why kill something when you don’t have to?
Try this, next time you come across a spider or other icky bug in your house or garden: give her a name. Once she has a name, she becomes an individual. That seems to go a long way toward decreasing the ick factor and making us feel more sympathetic. E.B. White was well aware of this when he put a spider at the center of Charlotte’s Web.
It’s easy to think of generic “spiders” as icky, but who wants to kill Charlotte?
BB: Speaking of acceptance: You incorporated quite a lot of Buddhist philosophy in Zooburbia. Are you a practicing Buddhist yourself? If so, did this come as a result of your love of nature or vice versa? Or are they too interwoven to tell?
TM: I am not a practicing Buddhist, but I do believe in a Buddhist principle called ahimsa, which means to cause no injury to any living being. It’s also known as nonviolence. Compassion and nonviolence are values that are shared with many different religious and spiritual traditions. I don’t belong to any of them, but I try to follow the principles of nonviolence in my life. Am I always successful? No. But none of us are perfect; all we can do is try to be kind and do the best that we can in every situation.
Q. My husband, who was raised in Africa, often points out the inherent American problem with nature, and I know you discussed that many European countries already incorporate wildlife underpasses on their freeways. Are there any other notable foreign advancements in regards to the harmony between people and nature that you would love to see instituted in the States?
TM: In terms of animal protection, Costa Rica is one of the most progressive countries in the world: Sport hunting is banned, circuses are prohibited from using performing animals, and last year the Coast Rican government announced its plan to close public zoos, setting wild animals free in nature preserves or sending them to sanctuaries where they will be cared for.
India is another country that is making great strides in animal welfare. The Indian government has put an end to animal testing and has proposed a ban on the import of cosmetics that are tested on animals. India has also enacted a ban on keeping dolphins in captivity and is phasing out the use of battery cages for confining egg-laying chickens.
And in 2008, Ecuador adopted a Constitution that grants inalienable rights to nature, becoming the first country to recognize that nature has rights.
These are all groundbreaking policies, and hopefully they will percolate over to the U.S. Legislation—passing new laws or strengthening existing laws—is one of the most effective ways to protect animals. South Dakota recently became the 50th state to make cruelty to animals a felony. We still have a long way to go, but that’s a milestone worth celebrating.
BB: I really need to know if Papagayo ever knew freedom. Or is he still caged and you’re short a friend?
TM: Sadly, as far as I know, Papagayo is still living a solitary life in his cage in the dining room. But Papagayo is only one of many thousands of parrots and other caged birds who live similarly deprived lives. Parrots are highly intelligent and social birds, and they suffer when they are robbed of the chance to participate in flock life.
Their human guardian has to take the place of their flock and that means giving them abundant amounts of love, attention and stimulation. If you’re not up to that challenge—and it can be very time-consuming to properly care for a parrot—you shouldn’t have one.
That’s why I used the epigraph from Xenophon on that chapter: “Anything forced or misunderstood can never be beautiful.” The nature of bird is to fly and to flock. To cage a bird is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of bird.
“Anything forced or misunderstood can never be beautiful.”
BB: Finally, you love, own, and care for species rather indiscriminately, but what’s your favorite animal? Are you more of a dog person or a cat person?
TM: I love both species and get so much joy from each of them. We love categories, and certainly it can be fun to argue the merits of cats vs. dogs. The truth is, I like some dogs better than some cats and some cats better than some dogs. That way all my bases are covered—in case cats and dogs ever acquire the ability to read English.
BB: First, thank you so very much for agreeing to my interviewing you! It’s the 20th anniversary of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, the novel that introduced the world to the delightful and whip-smart Mary Russell. Congratulations! I’d like to know how this makes you feel.
LK: Twenty years is forever—and yet, but the snap of a finger. Twenty years ago I had two books published (together, they brought in enough to install central heating in the house!) and a tentative idea that I might be able to talk my publisher into a few more. So to not only have survived as a writer for two decades, but to have a thriving community of readers eager for more, is a thrill.
BB: After 20 years and 12 novels, are you at all tired of her?
LK: No, she amuses me no end, and I never seem to run out of ways for her to insult and get the better of Sherlock Holmes. Although whenever I end up writing about her for more than a year or two in a row, I end up doing terrible things to her, so perhaps alternating worlds is better for us all…
…I end up doing terrible things to her…
BB: As a Russell fan, I know from the painful interim between installments that you often break up your writing from series to series and with stand-alone novels interspersed. Do you find this helps you from tiring of certain characters? Or does it cause any confusion with your story lines?
LK: As a reader, this is always a problem, isn’t it? You want to love all a writer’s children equally, but you can’t help having favorites. But the truth of it is, as a writer there are some stories you just can’t tell inside certain fictional worlds, some kinds of energies that can’t be contained within an established series.
…some kinds of energies that can’t be contained within an established series.
As a writer, as a person, I need to push myself—I have to stretch the bounds of comfort. If I wrote nothing but Russells, the characters (those that survived!) would go stale, and people would stop buying the books.
The trick is, to convince people that The Other Books are good too. Because the publishing world doesn’t really like it if every other book languishes on the shelves when readers pass it by because it’s Not A Russell.
If I wrote nothing but Russells, the characters (those that survived!) would go stale, and people would stop buying the books.
I do love the other new series, Harris Stuyvesant and Bennett Grey. Writing them lets me use muscles I can’t use in the Russells. I suppose it’s just a matter of building an audience for them, too.
BB: Speaking of your multiple series, do you have a favorite?
LK: Not really. I’d love to be able to write four books a year, so I could produce a Russell, a Stuyvesant & Grey, a Martinelli, and another in the Folly/Keeping Watch cycle. Oh, and maybe the occasional standalone…
BB: Along those same lines, do you enjoy writing the modern Kate Martinelli’s or your historical fiction more?
LK: I do seem drawn to the past, don’t I? Even many of the contemporary novels have sections set elsewhen. Which may be the reason that the Martinelli idea I’m playing with rests on events from a previous era.
Do you get to indulge in travel “research”?
BB: When it comes to your historical novels, they are often set in far-flung and exotic locales. Do you get to indulge in travel “research”? What other research goes into them?
LK: Absolutely, I always go where I’m writing—the next Russell, for example, is set in Japan, and I couldn’t write it until I’d been there. Of course, I do a lot of book-research too, since it’s rare you can go to a place and see anything but the faintest trace of the Twenties. But for stories set in other places, I need to breathe the air and listen to the sounds.
I do a lot of book-research too, since it’s rare you can go to a place and see anything but the faintest trace of the Twenties.
BB: I’m curious, does it affect your approach having the Mary Russell series presented as her memoirs? Does this change from your approach when you’re writing plainly fictitious characters like in The Bones of Paris?
LK: Oh yes, particularly as the series gets longer and there’s more detail to keep track of. In fact, we’ve (“we” being Team LRK) just published The Mary Russell Companion, an ebook, which is quite solemn about treating the books as Russell’s Memoirs rather than King’s novels. As to why King has her name on them, well, you’ll have to read the Companion to find out.
I’m free to murder off whomever I wish.
With a series like Stuyvesant & Grey, with Touchstone and now Bones of Paris, there is a lot less baggage to carry around, and I’m free to murder off whomever I wish. Unlike Russell, who really is fairly essential to the series. (Although that Holmes fellow, well, it wouldn’t be the first time an author murdered him.)
BB: Mary Russell works side by side with the famous Sherlock Holmes, who is rather big right now, and you clearly know and love the Conan Doyle canon. Harris Stuyvesant in Touchstone & The Bones of Paris is plaininly reminiscent of some of Dashiell Hammett’s line of brusque, American detectives. As a clear mystery lover yourself, who is your favorite classic detective writer? Do you read and love any modern mystery authors?
LK: Oh sure, I read widely, from cozy to thriller. SJ Rozan and Lyndsay Faye do detectives Hammett would feel right at home with—as, indeed, he would with Harris Stuyvesant.
BB: Can you give us a clue as to what’s next for Russell and Holmes?
LK: In addition to The Mary Russell Companion (out now as an ebook), which is bursting with Things To Know about Mary Russell (some of which might be categorized as fiction…) and the new, 20th anniversary edition of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, next February comes Dreaming Spies, which is set partly in Japan and partly in Oxford.
And as for Holmes without Russell, In the Company of Sherlock Holmes (with Les Klinger) is a fabulous collection of stories “inspired by Holmes” in December.
I hope people enjoy all of them.
We certainly do!
“…I love cinema and wanted to be Stanley Kubrick.”
BB: The Intern’s Handbook is your first novel. How does that feel?
SK: It’s a dream come true. I always wanted to be a writer, from a very young age. I was obsessed with Vonnegut, King, O’Connor, Nabakov, Dostoyevsky, Hunter S. Thompson, Chuck Palahniuk, and many other dark voices.
I kind of set aside novel writing when I was in college because I love cinema and wanted to be Stanley Kubrick. That didn’t really work out the way I planned! So, I got back to my roots as a writer and this book just flowed out of me.
I had no expectations other than to finish it, so everything that has happened thus far – great publishing deal, now a two-book deal, and a movie deal – far exceeded my expectations. I spent many years striving to get to this place and it feels amazing, like something I was put here to do.
“I was trained to powerfully convey messages and stories with the fewest amount of words.”
BB: You come from a background in entertainment and advertising. How did that affect your approach to writing a novel?
SK: From entertainment – mostly feature film work – I received excellent training (University of Westminster, Central London & American Film Institute) on story structure. This was heavily reinforced in my professional work in film. When you have 2 hours or less to tell a story, structure is critical. So, I feel I bring a strong approach in dramatic structure to my work – as a result of my experience in film.
From advertising, I am grateful for so many excellent lessons. First, as a copywriter, I was trained to powerfully convey messages and stories with the fewest amount of words. BREVITY! This is what my first Creative Director stamped on my desk in permanent ink. He used to say that the most effective communication in the world is that which can be done with one word.
So, I have a built in editor in my head, always pushing me to cut the fat and get to the point. This is why I think people say The Intern’s Handbook is a “fast read.” It’s because I like to grease the wheels and send your imagination on a runaway train of narrative intensity. You can only do that with BREVITY! Also, in advertising, you are always pushing concept. Everything has to have a clear and compelling concept for it to be memorable. All of my book ideas, like Intern’s, have what I believe are very cool concepts driving them.
“He was always accusing us of stealing donuts if you can believe that!”
BB: Having worked in two industries that are rather well known for sometimes thankless internships, did any autobiographical scenes get slipped in under the guise of fiction?
SK: The coffee assassination is closely related to something that really happened at one of my internships. I was working at an engineering firm and one of the engineers treated all of the underlings like vermin. He was always accusing us of stealing donuts if you can believe that! We probably were, but who cares? We were broke! Anyway, we got tired of him and one of my nerd buddies created a white powder concoction that we disguised as non-dairy creamer. When the guy poured it into the coffee, the liquid immediately solidified into a foul smelling gelatinous goo. No one was hurt, obviously, but the office harassment came to a screeching halt.
“I had to take a break from screenwriting for a couple of months just to wash the stank of lazy, horrific writing out of my head.”
BB: If, and I’m assuming here, you were once upon a time an intern yourself, what was the worst horror thrust upon you?
SK: I had a few internships and the worst horror thrust upon me was when I was a script reader for a film production company. I was a film student at the time in LA and I had high hopes for making it big in pictures. When I started reading the scripts that this company was actually considering making, I was physically ill. They were horrible. I was green as hell and definitely no Paul Schrader myself but it was unbelievable how bad these scripts were, and I was working at a highly reputable production company! I had to read 15-20 a week and write coverage! I like to say it was probably like being a porn director who loses his sex drive due to “overexposure.” I had to take a break from screenwriting for a couple of months just to wash the stank of lazy, horrific writing out of my head.
“…coffee is part medicine, part alchemical life elixir.”
BB: Your anti-hero, John Lago, makes a killer cup of coffee. As we reside in a city known for its brews, what’s your preferred cup o’ joe
SK: I have mild ADD so, for me, coffee is part medicine, part alchemical life elixir. I prefer espresso to drip coffee. For some odd reason, drip coffee makes me a bit sleepy. I have not spent enough time in your fair city because, sadly, I am ALWAYS there to work and never just to have fun! So, I can’t name drop any coffee purveyors. However, I will say that my favorite brand of espresso is Illy. I used to live in SF and Caffe Greco made a cappuccino that would prepare you for combat. They use Illy. Even though it doesn’t have the desired stimulant effect, I do love the taste of high quality drip or French press coffee. Some favorite brands are Graffeo (SF) and Stone Street (Brooklyn). I think it’s high time I come up there to sample some of Seattle’s finest brews!
“To me, a great book is like an amazing guitar chord or perfectly structured rock ‘n roll song.”
BB: I have to say, the combination of humor, satire and Bourne-esque action is rare. What inspired you? Any particular authors?
I am inspired simultaneously by books and cinema. On the book side, I love the rock ‘n roll style of Hunter Thompson, Chuck P, Irvine Welsh, and Buk, to name a few. I also draw inspiration from great prose stylists like Nabakov, Pynchon, Dahl, and Vonnegut. In cinema, it’s all about Kubrick, Fincher, Lean, Tarantino, Peckinpah, Bigelow, Allen, and Anderson, also to name a few. Beyond that, fashion is very intriguing and I am obsessed with Alexander McQueen and Tom Ford. And let’s not forget music! To me, a great book is like an amazing guitar chord or perfectly structured rock ‘n roll song. It has dynamics, relevance, energy, and a beautiful taste of darkness. So, as you can see, my mind is kind of a hopper that I stuff full of things I love so that I can create an aesthetic mélange that is uniquely me.
“The second book is a completely new concept…”
BB: Will we be seeing more of John Lago? Or do you have plans to branch into other areas of literature?
SK: I just signed a two book deal with Simon & Schuster. One of those books is the sequel to The Intern’s Handbook and it is called “Hostile Takeover.” The second book is a completely new concept called “Business Class” and it is an espionage thriller that takes place in the world of frequent air travelers. It will be a completely different kind of thriller than my John Lago books but still thriller genre. I do plan to branch out a bit in the near future. I am a huge science fiction fan and I have a strong concept waiting in the wings for its day in the sun.
JOSHUA FERRIS on Tuesday, May 27th at 7:00 p.m.
Right out of the Memorial Day weekend we come on a high note: Joshua Ferris, author of Then We Came to the End and The Unnamed, and contributor to The New Yorker, Granta, and Tin House, is here with a much-anticipated new novel, To Rise Again At a Decent Hour (Little, Brown). “This is one of the funniest, saddest, sweetest novels I’ve read since Then We Came to the End. When historians try to understand our strange, contradictory era, they would be wise to consult To Rise Again at a Decent Hour. It captures what it is to be alive in early 21st-century America like nothing else I’ve read.” – Anthony Marra. “With almost Pynchonesque-complexity, Ferris melds conspiracy and questions of faith in an entertaining way … Full of life’s rough edges, the book resists a neat conclusion … Sad, smart, hilarious, this shows a writer at the top of his game and surpassing the promise of his celebrated debut.” – Kirkus Reviews.