Wednesday, October 10, 2018

7 Questions For: Author M.T. Anderson

M.T. Anderson is the author of the Pals in Peril series; The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, which won the National Book Award; The Game of Sunken Places; Burger Wuss; Thirsty; and Feed, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book, and the winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Young Adults. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Visit him at

Click here to read my review of  The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge.

And now M.T. Anderson faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

Now that's unfair. How can I play favorites? For the sake of saying something, I'll go with Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine, Nabokov's Pale Fire, and Woolf's To the Lighthouse.

But I honestly think it's too bad we think so much in terms of "best" and "favorite." Books have different uses for us at different times in our lives (and even at different times of the day!). There are some nights when I'm lying in bed with the rain falling outside, and it's cozy inside, and I want it to feel like I'm on vacation, and so the thing that moves me most is a book of "true" local ghost stories. But in the light of day, those same stories might seem trivial. Books are like people: we should make an effort to love as many of them as possible.

Question Six: How much time do you spend each week writing? Reading?

It depends on the week! A lot of the time, I'm traveling. That wasn't something I was expecting as an author.

When I'm in the midst of working hard on a novel, I'll probably spend about three or four hours a day writing. But that doesn't reflect the time when, for example, when I'm jogging before I write. That's when some of the most important work actually gets done: thinking through the plot, imagining things from the characters' points of view, just getting myself into the mood of the scene I'm supposed to be writing that day.

Question Five: What was the path that led you to publication?

I got a job at a publishing company -- my publisher, Candlewick Press! I was twenty-two, and I spent the next couple of years in their photocopy room. Then one day I handed my novel Thirsty to an editor there -- and it was accepted!

Question Four: Do you believe writers are born, taught or both? Which was true for you?

I definitely believe that writing can be taught. You need a teacher who can tell you which instincts to trust, a teacher who will encourage you to write like yourself, and not what you think you should be writing like.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about writing? What is your least favorite thing?

I love that feeling of satisfaction when you come up with a phrase that perfectly catches the emotion you want to produce, and suddenly, you feel like you've really conveyed something about how the world feels.

My least favorite thing is all the need for self-promotion these days. I'm from New England, and we are not a people who enjoy self-promotion.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

Alternate working on two things, to give yourself long rests from each one between drafts. Give yourself time to forget the project a little -- a couple of months even. You'll come back to it able to see around problems that seemed insurmountable.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

Herodotus. The guy had been everywhere and seen everything. Or he hadn't been everywhere but was really good at lying. Either way, that would be a fascinating lunch.

Except I'm really not that into Greek food.

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