Lauren Groff who is a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize 2012, was kind enough to agree to an interview. It was amazing to ask her about her techniques and how she commits absolutely to the worlds she creates. Despite her alarming number of accolades (she has a Pushcart and Pen/O. Henry prizes) I found her to be extremely down-to-earth and friendly. Lauren Groff loves writing in such a pure and uncontrived way, it shows in her prose. It’s an honor to give my readers at Chicago Literati a behind the scenes glimpse of arguably one of the greatest living fiction writers of the 21st century. Without further adieu, I present to you Ms. Lauren Groff!
Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
I was an incredibly shy child with a passionate love for books, and writing was the only job that seemed perfect to me. That said, I didn't have the courage to admit to it until I graduated from college and had a series of terrible jobs that reinforced my longing to be alone in a room with words all day long.
What was your favorite book as a child?
I loved Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking books. I still think that Pippi, with her superhuman strength and independence, is one of the best female characters ever written.
What is your favorite book of all time?
Hands down, Middlemarch by George Eliot is the book that I return to over and over again. I try to read it once a year.
What inspires you more: food, music or wine?
What is food without wine and eating without music? They go most beautifully together. But if I had to have only one, I'd say music, but music without words that I can understand. If I'm playing music with lyrics in English, I stop working because I'm listening too hard.
What is your favorite quote and why?
"If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence." This is a quote from Middlemarch that reminds me to pay closer attention to the terrible beauty of all of the ordinary human stories happening around me.
If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet and why?
Because this is an impossible question to answer honestly, and because it's all magical thinking anyway, I'm going to cheat a little and say Falstaff, from Shakespeare, who is one of the most dangerous, foolish, and fascinating characters in all of literature.
What time of day do you write the best?
I work best in the morning, with sleep still in my brain.
Who are your favorite types of characters?
The characters I love best are deeply flawed but desperately trying to live up to their own moral code.
What is your favorite breed of dog? Why?
I like all dogs, even dogs that look like cats. My favorite dog of all times was a half-Sharpei, half-chocolate lab named Cooper, who was gentle and sweet, never barked, and had a blue tongue. We lost him shortly after my first son was born, and my husband won't let me get another until the baby is in school. At the moment, I'd take any dog at all.
Arcadia was told in episodic vignettes and readers really got to know the characters. It was both innovative and completely immersive, how did this amazing masterpiece come to you?
I'm blushing, here. Thank you. The book came to me over four years with constant hard work and a lot of bad and ugly drafts. The original ghost of it came when I was pregnant with my oldest son, and I was despairing about the world that I found myself living in. I wanted to create a more beautiful world where I could rest and work every day, even though I knew that my utopia would prove false, as all utopias are.
If you were a color, what color would you be?
Blue. Blue is changeable and strange.
What is your favorite word? Why?
Ludic. It halts me in my path and reminds me to play.
What brings you joy?
My babies bring me joy, swimming brings me joy, work and reading and eating all bring me joy. Every single day, even the darkest, are full of intense flashes of joy. I sometimes have to force myself to remember this.
Lauren Groff is the author of The Monsters of Templeton, Delicate Edible Birds, and 2012's Arcadia, which was a New York Times Notable Book and Bestseller. Her fiction has won Pushcart and PEN/O. Henry prizes and has appeared in the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, and Tin House, as well as two editions of the Best American Short Stories anthology. She lives in Gainesville, FL with her husband and two sons.
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