Exclusive Interview with Jeff VanderMeer

 

 

 

 

 

We’re excited to share this special Q&A with Jeff VanderMeer about his book, Borne, and something exciting he’s doing with Quarterly:

This quarter’s box is curated by Jeff VanderMeer, featuring an exclusive, annotated copy of Borne, already named one of the most anticipated books of 2017 by The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Chicago Reader, The Week, and Publishers Weekly. Also find in the box two more books, handpicked by VanderMeer that inspired him as an author, plus awesome bookish goods — perfect for book lovers. (Psst: Act fast, subscribe by April 21st to get this box and use the discount mentioned below.)

NetGalley Author Interview

Pub Date: April 25, 2017
General Fiction (Adult)
Published by MCD/FSG

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Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into writing? When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

It all kind of started with bird watching. I kept a bird list in Fiji, where I spent four or five years of my childhood. Kingfisher! (For example.) But I got bored with that, so I started a personal diary in the journal instead (although I never gave up bird watching!). I think I was seven or eight. But I got bored with that, too, so I started writing poems, which since I was so young were titled things like “Oh, how I love the sea!” And I also wrote down little fables, sometimes actually rewriting Aesop’s fables. At that same time, my parents were reading me things like William Blake’s Tyger Tyger Burning Bright and giving me classics new and old. From that moment on, I didn’t really think about it–I just felt like I was a writer and although I was briefly dazzled by the idea of being a marine biologist, it turned out I just loved looking into tidal pools.

In my teens I wrote and published a lot of poems, some short stories, started and edited a literary magazine, ran a community reading series, and wrote two terrible fantasy novels based on my love of Patricia McKillip and others. This all helped me very early, by about sixteen, to have a good lay of the land. I was also lucky enough to be mentored by people like the poet Enid Shomer, the novelists Jane Stuart and Meredith Ann Pierce, and in general to get a good start on a lifelong devotion to writing fiction.

How did the idea for Borne come about?

Just as with Annihilation I had put into the back of my head years earlier, “I want to write in some way about Florida,” I had also put in my head “I want to in some way write about my childhood.” But that wasn’t as easy a proposition because I had a kind of block in that direction, I think because I instinctively knew that I needed more distance and that, you know, even though I lived in Fiji, I wasn’t from there. This actually created a lot of angst early on in how to write fiction because I felt like I’d been everywhere but belonged nowhere.

But then one day I had this sudden inspiration, an image in my mind of the flank of a giant bear and entangled in it something that looked a little bit like a closed-up sea anemone…and a woman named Rachel who found it…and realized it was something more than what it looked like. And I knew that Rachel didn’t belong in the city–that she had come from somewhere else, and that, although, it’s never named in the novel, that place was the South Pacific. And suddenly, I could write about the places I knew as a child, as part of her backstory.

How has it changed since you first began writing it?

I don’t seriously start to put words on the page until I’ve thought about a novel for a long time, so that when I do most of what changes is at the level of scene or paragraph, and sometimes, of course, structure will change as a result, but not always. The story I wanted to tell didn’t change, but as time went on the relationship between Rachel and her boyfriend Wick deepened and grew and the character of the Magician, Wick’s rival, came into focus in interesting ways. But Rachel’s voice always came very naturally to me.

Do you have any specific or strange writing rituals that get you into a groove?

I used to need special pens and pencils and journals. No more! These days, I’m just as happy to scribble an idea or scene fragment on the back of a leaf while I’m hiking. I also don’t really care what time of day I write, although some books feel like night-time narratives and so I might write late at night for something like the novel I’m working on now, Hummingbird Salamander. But the key things that never change is that I write my drafts long-hand and that I get my best ideas while hiking out in the wilderness or while lifting weights in the gym. That probably has to do with having to live in the moment and not be distracted, which gives my subconscious and imagination room to operate.

Do you have a favorite character from Borne?

I know that Borne himself–shape-shifting and spectacularly tentacular!–is a big draw, as is Mord, the giant psychotic bear. But my favorite character is Rachel, the narrator, who just simply keeps keeping on and trying to do her best as she navigates a landscape both physical and ethical that’s complex and difficult. I feel immense sympathy and love for her.

What is your favorite novel of all time?

I wish I could answer this question, but there are too many. So instead I’ll tell you an anecdote about one of my favs, Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. Recently, as guest speakers at a Sigma Tau Delta conference, my wife Ann and I snuck out long enough to get some shopping in and in a men’s consignment shop, the owner (Hank Bullitt–great name!) found out I was a writer and asked what my favorite book was. For some reason I was thinking of meeting Marty Wilson-Piper of The Church on Bondi Beach, and how he’d had a battered copy of The Master and Margarita, so that’s what I said was my favorite. And Hank Bullitt just about jumps out of his skin and tells us that his late cousin was the U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union and knew Bulgakov and was the inspiration for a character in the novel and told us a lot of interesting stuff about that time period and his cousin. Talk about an odd coincidence!

Which three authors would you invite to a dinner party?

From any time period? Vladimir Nabokov, Angela Carter, and Amos Tutuola. Now that would be a party!

Do you have any advice for young writers?

Go with your heart. Write what is personal to you and that you’re passionate about. Never worry about trends and be true to yourself. No trend is worth chasing and the landscape changes so frequently anyway that the most important thing is that you are happy with and proud of your writing. When you achieve success, you want it to be on your own terms.

Do you read multiple books at a time or do you focus on just one?

Usually, I focus on just one, but it just depends. If I find two novels different enough or a novel and a nonfiction book, I’ll read more than one. I was just reading Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Book of Joan and Rooted: The Best New Arboreal Nonfiction at the same time, alongside Wendel Berry’s The Mad Farmer Poems.

What is your favorite thing that you have received in the mail?

Gosh, this is tough. For years, because of a prior novel, I got pounds and pounds of dried squid in the mail. I wouldn’t say that was a favorite, but it was a thing that happened. I’ve also received a stuffed-animal meerkat head glued to a plate in the mail because of another novel, along with lots of fan art over the course of my career. I guess, honestly, the heartfelt letters from readers who appreciated some aspect of my fiction have been the best, especially where it’s clear that something therein made them happy or took away their stress or in another way were of use.

Also, I’m really looking forward to getting a woodcut in the mail soon from the artist Theo Ellsworth–a 2-foot-tall illustration of Mord.

Click here to get Jeff VanderMeer’s Fiction Box, complete with an exclusive, annotated copy of Borne! (Plus! As a NetGalley member, you get an exclusive 10% discount! Just enter the code: NETGALLEY10 at checkout – expires April 21st.)

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NetGalley Author Interview: Katherine Reay

Katherine Reay has enjoyed a life-long affair with the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries—who provide constant inspiration both for writing and for life. She is the author of three previous novels, and her debut, Dear Mr. Knightley, was a 2014 Christy Award Finalist, winner of the 2014 INSPY Award for Best Debut, and winner of two Carol Awards for Best Debut and Best Contemporary.

Katherine holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University and is a wife, mother, runner, and tae kwon do black belt. After living all across the country and a few stops in Europe, Katherine and her family recently moved back to Chicago. Visit her on line at katherinereay.com, Facebook: katherinereaybooks Twitter: @Katherine_Reay

A Portrait of Emily Price

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Pub Date: November 1, 2016
Women's Fiction, General Fiction
Published by Thomas Nelson - Fiction

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Art restorer Emily Price has never encountered anything she can’t fix—until she meets Ben, an Italian chef, who seems just right. When Emily follows Ben home to Italy, she learns that his family, however, is another matter . . .

Emily Price—fix-it girl extraordinaire and would-be artist—finds herself in Atlanta, repairing objects damaged in a house fire. As she works to restore the home and dreams of one family, she strives to keep the pieces of her own life in perfect order and secure her own happy ending—a gallery show of her own. There is no time for distractions, especially not the ultimate distraction of falling in love.

But Chef Benito Vassallo’s relentless pursuit proves hard to resist. Visiting from Italy, Ben works to reconnect with his brother and breathe new life into his aunt and uncle’s faded restaurant, Piccolo. And soon after their first meeting, he works to win Emily as well—inviting her into his world and into his heart.

Emily astonishes everyone when she accepts Ben’s proposal and follows him home. Upon landing in Rome, she is enchanted with Italy. But instead of allowing the land, culture and people to transform her, Emily imposes her will upon everyone and everything around her, alienating Ben’s tightly knit family. Only Ben’s father, Lucio, gives Emily the understanding she needs to lay down her guard. Soon, Emily’s life and art begin to blossom, and Italy’s beauty and rhythm take hold of her spirit.

Yet when she unearths long-buried family secrets, Emily wonders if she really fits into Ben’s world. Will the joys of Italy become just a memory, or will Emily share in the freedom and grace that her life with Ben has shown her are possible?

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Author Chat with Brenda Minton

Live on June 3rd at 4:30pm EST!

Bodyguard Boone Wilder isn't keen on his latest mission: watching over a pretty politician's daughter. Boone is from quiet Texas Hill Country, and Kayla is a showy city gal. But once safely settled at the Wilder Ranch, Boone watches Kayla enjoy cooking with his family, caring for his relatives and bottle-feeding calves. There's more to her than he ever knew. Still, the former soldier's wounds are way too deep to let Kayla close. But when he discovers that someone wants to hurt Kayla, Boone must risk his heart to protect what he cares about most.

Her Rancher Bodyguard

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Pub Date: May 24, 2016
Romance, General Fiction (Adult)
Published by Love Inspired

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Reader Spotlight

Blog name: ShelfNotes - Amber & Arianna
Blog URL: http://www.shelfnotes.com

As a duo, how long have you been blogging about books and why did you start?

AmberBug: Wow, just looking back at our first post on Aug 4th 2013, such a long time ago. We became friends a long time before that. We have our ex-boyfriends to thank for this friendship (they were best friends which lead to our close friendship). As far as the blog goes, that started with a trip to BEA 2013. The event was fantastic, we got hooked and wanted more. We started making plans for BEA 2014, pulling ideas together for a blog. The best part about the blog is being able to spend more time together and discuss our passion for books.

What genres and subgenres does your blog focus on? Are there any trends within these that you’re excited to see, or would like to see dissipate?

Arianna: If anything we’d probably describe the genre we focus on as adult literature, but we are pretty deliberate about not rejecting any specific genre or form. We’ve both dabbled in genres outside of our normal preferences because we feel it is important to broaden your horizons! And what better way to do that than through books?! If someone recommends something to us, we almost always add it to our TBR pile – even if it is something we might never have picked up otherwise. That’s the fun of living in a bookish world!

As you can see from our reviews, we hope it is clear that we always try to find something positive to say about every book we read, so we certainly don’t have strong opinions about what should or shouldn’t be published or read. We are just glad when others are enjoying our shared passion of reading! So whatever fads come and go, we’ll always support the underlying idea of bringing more book love into the world.

Besides BookExpo America, have you attended any other industry events? Would you recommend that other bloggers attend too, if they are able?

AmberBug: We haven’t attended any large industry events together but we have traveled to NYC for the Hachette Lunch one year and we have attended many Author talks (many at RJ Julia Bookstore in Madison, CT). Now that Arianna has moved to NY and works at Vassar (academic librarian), she has many opportunities to attend book talks with some fantastic authors. I think all book talks are worth it, especially when they discuss the books (instead of reading from them). Many times, we both agree, we have walked away with a greater appreciation of the work than before.

Your review style is somewhat unique as you specifically highlight the first sentence(s) of the book, and then your review is written in the form of a letter to the reader. How did you decide on this way of writing your reviews?

Arianna: When we decided to create a book blog, we looked around quite a bit for a blog title. Unfortunately, many that we excitedly proposed to each other had already been snatched up! When we came up with “Shelf Notes”, we figured it could be really fun to make these “notes” the format of our blog posts – letters to our readers. This ultimately worked really well for us, because one thing we were nervous about was the formality of a traditional book review: we wanted a way to keep things light and more casual, as well as allowing ourselves to address our audience directly, in what we hoped would be a more personal tone. And thus, Dear Reader, Shelf Notes was born!

Do you have any advice for book bloggers who are just starting out?

AmberBug: Be patient. Building a blog and gaining readers takes time. I would also suggest finding someone who loves books as much as you do and creating a blog with them. I’m not sure how some of my favorite bloggers do it all by themselves, it’s very impressive. We motivate each other and when we don’t feel “up” to it (because that will happen – it comes in waves), the other blogger(s) can help you out. Also, don’t expect this to be a job (you won’t get rewarded with money) and the minute it does feel like that, take a step back and change it up.

Are there any titles on NetGalley that you’re looking forward to reading/reviewing?

Arianna: If we had the time, we’d want to review every title on NetGalley! (Ah, dream world…) We did just both eagerly start The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian. I have quite a few backlogged NG books that I am still eager to pick up, too. Because NetGalley lets us request what we are interested in, it’s been so wonderful seeing the high percentage of titles I have really enjoyed out of those I’ve selected.

AmberBug: I have a few I’m looking forward to but Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel has caught my eye. I’m also a huge fan of Joyce Carol Oates and can’t wait to sink my teeth into her new short story collection The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror. I’m also intrigued with The Girls by Lisa Jewell, I heard it has the potential to be a good mystery.

The Guest Room     Sleeping Giants     The Doll Master     The Girls

Lightning Round!

Your ideal reading spot:

AmberBug: Bed (Snuggled with one of my three pets)

Arianna: A comfy chair with a hot beverage.

Your favorite authors:

AmberBug: Amélie Nothomb, Joyce Carol Oates, Hanya Yanagihara, Margaret Atwood, John Irving, George Orwell – shall I go on? I hate picking just one.

Arianna: Ohhh this question is always so difficult to answer! Neal Stephenson is a big one; I will read whatever he comes out with and have read all of his backlog. With other authors, it’s usually one work that I fall in love with, not the entire oeuvre. I am totally going to cop out of this answer, I am sorry!

Your blog, in 2 sentences:

AmberBug: How about two words? Eclectic & Casual.

Arianna: Couldn’t say it better myself – thanks, Amber!

Book you’d like to see on the big screen:

AmberBug: The Stranger Next Door by Amélie Nothomb or A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (although I wouldn’t want it to ruin my experience).

Arianna: I’m going to look at recent releases I’ve enjoyed, because it’s less likely they will have already made it to the screen! Let’s see – At the Water’s Edge (Gruen) would be fun to see. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club (Valentine), Illuminae (Kaufman & Kristoff), The Walled City (Graudin), Circling the Sun (McLain) – it appears I enjoy historical fiction and sci-fi translated to the big screen! Oh, and I am eagerly awaiting The Sisters Brothers (deWitt) and Ready Player One (Cline).

One more addition! Kiera Knightley has bought the rights to The Other Typist, which we both reviewed on our blog, and we’re definitely looking forward to seeing how that one is translated into the big screen.

And to finish off our interview, if you could go on a road trip with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and where would you go?

AmberBug: Hunter S. Thompson – Road trip to anywhere he wants to go. I’d like to get a little mad, crazy and tipsy with him.

Arianna: Now I am getting distracted imagining Amber on a road trip with Thompson… all I can see is a crazy sugar-fueled version of Fear & Loathing! I love it. Anyway, hmm. I think I’d love to spend hours in the car with David Foster Wallace’s amazing brain. I haven’t yet seen The End of the Tour, though, so I have yet to find out if he is an absolutely terrible road trip companion.

Thanks so much Amber (aka AmberBug) and Arianna, for spending some time with us and answering our questions!
Please make sure to check out ShelfNotes and titles in Fiction (Adult) now available on NetGalley! 

Would you like to nominate your blog, or a blog you admire, to be featured in our Blogger Spotlight series? Fill out this form!

*Interviewed by Tarah Theoret

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Author Chat with Camille Pagan

Live on November 19th at 4pm ET!

Camille Pagán‘s work has appeared in dozens of national publications and websites including Fast Company, Forbes, Men’s Health, O, The Oprah Magazine, Parade, and Women’s Health. She is the health editor at Real Simple magazine, and lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her family. Visit her at www.camillepagan.com.

Life and Other Near-Death Experiences

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Pub Date: Nov 1, 2015
Women's Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)
Published by Lake Union Publishing

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