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20 Writerly Questions Series: Justin Cronin

abstract:The "Writerly Questions Series" is brought to you courtesy of Random House Canada who partners with BookBuffet. Look for this feature each Monday. The idea is we ask different authors the same set of questions designed to give readers a glimpse into the lives and writing mechanics of authors. It is fascinating to compare and contrast when you check the list to date at bottom. Today's author is Justin Cronin. Born and raised in New England, Justin Cronin is a graduate of Harvard University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Awards for his fiction include the Stephen Crane Prize, a Whiting Writers’ Award, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. He is a professor of English at Rice University and lives with his wife and children in Houston, Texas. His newest novel, The Passage, is published by Doubleday Canada.
1. How would you summarize your book in one sentence?
Girl saves world.
2. How long did it take you to write this book?
Forty-seven years, but most of it in the last three.
3. Where is your favorite place to write?
Rome is nice. But usually I write in my office over the garage. I used to write IN the garage..
4. How do you choose your characters’ names?
Like my children's names, they seem to come from above.
5. How many drafts do you go through?
Three at least. In the second draft, I add. In the third, I cut. Often I have to do this more than once.
6. If there was one book you wish you had written what would it be?
Currently, Joseph O'Neill's NETHERLAND
7. If your book were to become a movie, who would you like to see star in it?
I think Russell Crowe would make a great Agent Wolgast.


June 13, 2010
8. What’s your favourite city in the world?
Houston, TX, because my children live there. It's home.
9. If you could talk to any writer living or dead who would it be, and what would you ask?
Shakespeare. How did you do it?
10. Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what kind?
Only the music of the spheres.
11. Who is the first person who gets to read your manuscript?
My wife, Leslie.
12. Do you have a guilty pleasure read?
Reading is too virtuous an act to make me feel guilty.
13. What’s on your nightstand right now?
A galley of Alan Furst's new novel, SPIES OF THE BALKANS; Ian McEwan's SOLAR; Colum McCann's LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN; Danielle Trussoni's ANGELOLOGY; Graham Green's THE HEART OF THE MATTER; three pairs of eyeglasses.

Also the new edition of The Last Tycoon--which, by the way, they are now calling The Love of the Last Tycoon, which is just not an improvement. I don’t care what Fitzgerald wanted. He wanted to call Gatsby Trimalchio in West Egg, so I think we can dismiss his opinion on his own titles. Anyway, it is such a tragedy that book wasn’t finished. The bits that we’ve got are so gorgeous.
14. What is the first book you remember reading?
15. Did you always want to be a writer?
I always liked to write. As for being a writer, that kind of crept up on me during my 20s.
16. What do you drink or eat while you write?
I don't eat, but I drink a lot of coffee. Diet Coke in the afternoon.
17. Typewriter, laptop, or pen & paper?
None of the above. I use a desktop computer with a screen the size of a baby pool. I can see four pages at a time. I sometimes compose on legal pads. I use colored drawing pencils because they're softer.
18. What did you do immediately after hearing that you were being published for the very first time?
It was long ago (1988), so I'm not sure. Probably I had to sit down for a few minutes, and then went for a long run.
19. How do you decide which narrative point of view to write from?
This decision always seems to be made for me by the kind of story I'm trying to tell. It's the one aspect of a novel I've never really had to think about very hard.
20. What is the best gift someone could give a writer?
Be nice to my children. And if you feel like doing some babysitting, that would be great.

Author links

  • Random House's "Author Feature Page" for Justin Cronin
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  • Previous Authors Asked 20 Writerly Questions

    Holly LeCraw
    Joan Thomas
    Anosh Irani
    Yann Martel
    Joy Fielding
    Andrew Kaufman
    Beth Powning



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