Elif Shafak in New York, New York
“When you’re a male writer, you’re a writer first and foremost. Nobody keeps saying, ‘You’re a male writer.’ You’re just called an author. Whereas when you’re a woman writer, you’re seen as a woman first, and then as a writer. There’s always this adjective following you, and that affects the perception of the readers, (and) of literary critics.”
"It's very relevant that in this day and age, somebody could...lose control of their life because they can't afford healthcare...that's a very clear distinction between the world of White and the world of today. I also think that this happens to be a world where natural resources, and I think people are included in that, are constantly exploited, and the people that actually live on the land, or have connection to that, aren't the ones that control it."
T.C. Boyle in Santa Barbara, California
Kimi Takesue in New York, New York
On the role of ice carving in her film, That Which Once Was: "It's an incredibly physical and macho act, because they're using chain saws and they're using these really dangerous tools, and yet on the other hand, it's a really delicate and very feminine and sort of gentle art form...And then thematically, it connects so much to the story because ice is ephemeral and it's fleeting, and it really sort of speaks to the central metaphors of life and loss and transformation that are part of the story. So not only did it provide amazing visual possibilities, but it really provided the metaphoric framework for the film."
Jess Row in Princeton, New Jersey
"As a Buddhist, I have a tendency to look at things with a perspective that tends to focus on karma and on cause and effect in the world. There's a real sort of correlation between narrative and karma, and one might even say that storytelling is a way of helping us understand cause and effect. And so I think that's a thread that runs indirectly through all of my work, but I wouldn't say that makes me very different from other fiction writers--I'm just more aware of it on a religious level that's parallel to my fiction."
On stopping in Minnesota on his most recent book tour: "I was reflecting with my wife on how different our lives would have been (if I had taken a job there, instead of at USC). I would have been totally assimilated there. I would have had a house on a lake, probably, and instead of writing things like The Tortilla Curtain about illegal immigration from Mexico, or this book about the (Channel) islands, I would have probably been writing about the wolves up there, and Swedish immigrants. Who knows."
Cara Hoffman in New York, New York
"I write because I’m wired that way. I’ve always written. I've written since I was probably four or five-years-old. There's a part of it that I obviously haven't examined at all because it's innate to who I am. Other than that, I do write because I feel that it’s a social act and I feel that its an important thing in being a responsible, ethical member of society to use the talents you have to say the things that are important. So for me, writing really is both a personal and a political act."
Anna Gerber and Britt Iversen in London, England
(Anna) “It seems kind of artificial to say that eBooks are just wiping out the need for physical cultural objects, and we think there’s a different way that we can think about those objects as well—that it doesn’t have to be about printing really cheap, disposable paperbacks that are available for three for twos in supermarkets.” (Britt) We think about it as a huge opportunity as opposed to a threat…rather than thinking about how do we save this sacred paper book as it was, it much’s more thinking about what are the boundaries we can push, and where can we take books to.”
Carrie Brown in Sweet Briar, Virginia
“It feels to me all the time when I’m writing that I’m trying to get the characters to turn around and look at me, so I can sort of look into their eyes and see them. I think it can take a long time to do that, whereas (as a journalist) you go out to interview somebody, there they are, and they may be evading you in some ways, but they’re fully present before you. And that’s not the case with people that you’re just making up.”
Scott Lindenbaum in Brooklyn, New York
On why he and partner Andy Hunter created the new social media storytelling platform Broadcastr: "I'm not in this because I'm a tech guy...storytelling is the most important thing I can thing of. People connecting--there couldn't be something more important than that in this world, in a very base way. If we were more connected across cultures and across great distances, I think there would be more empathy across cultures and ultimately we would have a better world to live in. We're in this to make a difference on that level."
Jon McGregor in Nottingham, England
On riding the Trans-Siberian Railway: "It was really interesting to see that, actually, the world is really big. The U.K. to Japan is a 12-hour flight...and there's no sense of place...whereas traveling by train, you go through eastern Europe, and you go through western Europe, and then you're in Russia...and you go though the different time zones, people are eating slightly different food, and the dialect is slightly different, and all these things that we think we've lost, all these kinds of differences, they're all still there."
"I'm always trying to keep in mind that a stage is not generic, but is instead directly related to the mood of a moment, and can become, too, an overlying metaphor as well as an active participant in a scene, so that the way that the sun sets or the way that a tree bends against the wind can be important as any gesture given by a character or any snippet of dialogue."
"When you're solving math problems, there's this sense that you only have this certain amount of freedom. You have the freedom in the questions you ask, but the answers--you have no freedom. The answer is what it is. And you may find it or you may not...so the questions you ask, the techniques you use to try to solve the problem, that's where all the creativity is. But there's no creativity in the answer. But that doesn't feel true in writing. That feels like unbridled creativity from beginning to end..."
On social media: "It does kind of create this...public narrative. I don't know if it supplants a writer's vision, but it sits there beside it, and I think there's less of that sense that writers might have that there's this whole unexplored world out there because basically everyone is out there telling their stories...It's a real challenge to fiction, I think, and I think it will change fiction in all kinds of ways."
Robert Olen Butler in Capps, Florida
"Slow down when you read. Especially when you read literary fiction...You must understand that the literary object exists in the total organic effect of every tiny decision. Every detail, every comma stroke is organically resonating into everything else. And so, if you read literary fiction faster than would allow you to hear the narrative voice in your head, you are not reading at all. You are going too fast. Slow way down. Read every word."