Meet the Author - Anthony Doerr

 

 

In honor of our celebration of Librarians and Libraries, it seems only fitting that our inaugural "Meet the Author" is Anthony Doerr for his recent book Cloud Cuckoo Land that is lovingly dedicated "For the librarians then, now, and in years to come".   
 
  1. How would you describe what you do?

Anthony:  I sit alone in a room for a good portion of every weekday and mess around with sentences.

  1. What do you like best about what you do?

Anthony:I love the magic of storytelling. Whales can sing and elephants can remember vast geographies and tens of thousands of kinds of sea creatures can illuminate their bodies, but we might be the only species on the planet that tells stories. And look what we’ve done with that superpower: We’ve constructed empires, built global religions, hacked through continents to build canals, fished out oceans, sent probes outside our solar system, performed symphonies over Zoom… all because of stories.

  1. What is the hardest thing about what you do?

Anthony:  Being alone all day.

  1. Are you a “plotter” or a “pantser”?

Anthony:  I’m a plantser. I like to know where I’m going, but I also love the moment of surprise when a project wanders down a path you didn’t predict. You’re on a walk at the end of a workday and you think—wait, what if this character did this? And then the next day you adjust your plans and try it. 

  1. What does your writing process look like? Do you write with regularity or when the inspiration strikes?

Anthony:  I write every day—or every weekday, anyway. I find that if I don’t, the ‘paint’ on a given project tends to dry, my subconscious stops operating on it, and the whole thing withers..

  1. Do your characters come to you fully formed or do they evolve as you write?  Do they ever surprise you? 

Anthony:  Characters never come fully-formed, and they often don’t only evolve—they often radically transform themselves halfway through a project. Their age changes, or their gender, or they make an entirely different decision, or they go away altogether.

  1. When you write dialogue for your characters, do you hear your voice or theirs?

Anthony:  For me, dialogue is generally born from some strange alchemy of invention, research, and experience. But perhaps the longer I work on a character, the more idiosyncratic and developed her or his voice becomes.

  1. What is the best piece of advice about writing that you ever received?

Anthony:  To read. The wellspring of all good writing is in reading good writing by other people.

  1. What is the biggest change that you have made in a piece that you were writing?

Anthony:  Oh dear, there are many. Halfway through All the Light We Cannot See, I moved the whole book out of World War II and into a fictional war, then moved the whole thing back. That chewed up a couple of months.

  1. What authors most influenced your decision to become a writer?

Anthony:  Alice Munro, W.G. Sebald, Virginia Woolf, Lorrie Moore, Jack Kerouac, Marguerite Yourcenar, Anne Carson, Marilynne Robinson, Shirley Hazzard, Denis Johnson, Fitzgerald, C.S. Lewis, even Bill Watterson, who wrote the comic Calvin & Hobbes… Anytime I get overwhelmed, or exhausted, I return to the writers I love, and they remind me why I was called to this weird vocation in the first place.

  1. What book do you recommend that everyone read?

Anthony:  Everyone should probably read Don Quixote before they die—it’s such a foundational Western novel, and it’s hilarious to boot. Try the Edith Grossman translation.

  1. What is a project that you haven’t done yet, but have always wanted to do?

Anthony:  I’d love to write a plausible, persuasive, and not-ridiculous story involving Neolithic or Mesolithic people.

  1. What is currently on your bedside table?

Anthony:  Alcestis, a play by Euripides; Lost and Found: A Memoir by Kathryn Schulz; and Objects of Desire, a story collection by Clare Sestanovich.