What neighborhood do you live in?
I never saw the sky from my last Manhattan apartment, which languished on the second floor of a tall building, just above the trash collection area. Here in low-rise Brooklyn, there’s sky and light all over the place, not to mention smaller trash piles. Much cheerier. I’ve lived in Park Slope now for 20 years.
For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
Kirkus called my book “engaging and entertaining but not maudlin,” which I hope is accurate. Writing about such an emotional subject, I knew that I could easily tip over into weepy melodrama. The last thing I wanted was to be maudlin or corny.
What have you read (or seen or heard or tasted or etc.) recently that will permanently change our readers' lives for the better?
It’s been out for a while, but I recently got clued in to the novel The Financial Lives of Poets by Jess Walter. I love that it spins off into craziness, but the story arises out a situation that rang absolutely true to me: the flop-sweat desperation of a longtime newspaper reporter who’s undone when his job goes south.
What would you characterize as an ideal interaction with a reader?
My secret pleasure used to be to spot someone reading one of my newspaper articles on the subway. I was curious but detached. This book seems to elicit strong emotions in readers, and they share their own stories with me any which way, written or in person. I never realized how much I would thrive on this kind of give and take.
If this whole writing thing hadn't worked out/doesn't work out, what would be your ideal fallback?
Making food that makes people swoon. But I’d have to learn to boil water first.
Have you ever written anything that you'd like to take back?
I didn’t write it, but I’ve always regretted this: once I turned in an article about a woman who was worried about finding a job after she got laid off. A copyeditor put a caption under her frazzled looking picture that said: “Scared to Death.” She was mortified. I seem to be on a job-loss theme here. Book-launch anxiety, perhaps?
Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart