Love reading? Listen up! I’ve already read my book of the autumn, and it’s Lauren Groff‘s brilliant Fates and Furies – an enthralling and surprising examination of a marriage, which has already been long-listed for the National Book Award. I was lucky enough to interview the American author (follow her on Twitter here!) to find out more about the book, Lauren’s tips for aspiring authors and the other books we should add to our reading lists.
Photo: Megan Brown/@bethesme
What sparked your love of writing?
I began to write very young, when I was about ten or so, and in the beginning, I thought I was as a poet. I was very swiftly disabused of that idea. I’m pretty sure I could have chosen any number of careers, but writing was the only one I thought would ever make me happy.
How would you describe Fates and Furies?
Some people say this book is about marriage. I say it’s about marriage the way a bomb casing is about the bomb. Through marriage, I’m exploring ideas about creativity, privilege, time, death, opera, performance; I wanted to write a page-turner with sentences that snap and sing.
Your books often focus on perception vs reality, or different people’s realities – why do you find this so interesting?
I think we’re in this strange moment in time when there are so many stories constantly being pumped into the public sphere that our natural reaction is toward an austerity of vision, where all discussions, from private to political are being framed in a sort of stark black-and-white.
But things are always ambiguous. Ideas of purity are dangerous. I resist the single story, the uncomplicated story, and fiction, with its possibility of radical empathy, is a weapon.
The first book I read of yours was the awesome Arcadia. Which book would you suggest new readers start with?
Thank you! Because I tend to love the books fewer people have read, I’d say Delicate Edible Birds, my story collection: the stories were written over a longer period of time, and they’re heterogeneous and wild.
What’s a typical day like for you when you’re writing?
I wake up early, at about 5 in the morning, work for a few hours with lots and lots of coffee, then go for a run or to the gym; I come back, eat breakfast, do ablutions, work until lunch at about one, then go fetch my children from school at about three. We do assorted activities – swimming, French, walks – then make dinner together, and it’s bedtime. I go to sleep very early, with a book on my chest.
Tell us the first beauty product you were ever introduced to
My aunt painted my fingernails a cotton-candy pink when I was three. I probably tried to eat them.
What everyday items can you never leave home without?
Burt’s Bees makes pink grapefruit facial cleansing towelettes, which I love. I always have a profusion of grey Le Pen pens, which, unlike the French politicians, are wonderful.
What 3 tips would you give any aspiring authors out there?
1. Write every day.
2. Give yourself a break. Nothing is perfect. The first few drafts should be awful.
3. Read a thousand books to every one that you write.
What 3 books by other authors would you recommend?
The Visiting Privilege by Joy Williams. Astonishing short stories by one of the great living masters of the form.
The Neapolitan Novels (My Brilliant Friend, The Story of A New Name, Those Who Leave And Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child) by Elena Ferrante. The very best epic multi-volume novel since Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time.
A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin. Lucia Berlin died in relative obscurity, but her stories are full of blazing life and sadness and grit and gallows humour.
What’s next? We already can’t wait for your next book!
I’m working on three things, and I have no idea what they are or when they will ready to show their shy little faces to the world. I will let you know.
– Beth Squires