I had the great honor of interviewing and chatting with Percival Everett, esteemed novelist and USC Professor of English.
Below are my questions to this great mind and kind man. To hear the answers on our blog talk radio chat, go to:
1. You write short stories, poetry, novels, children’s books. Do you think writing ability necessarily makes you equally good at these different forms? (I feel like I’m no good at short stories. I lose interest. Ironically.)
2. Where do your ideas for novels come from? From newspaper articles? Dreams? Long walks in nature? Do you believe we tell the stories we do because we are selected to tell them? Or we create them?
3. Elizabeth Gilbert gave a TED talk on creativity that got everybody talking. She surveyed the history of creativity and discussed, among other things, how in Greek and Roman times, creativity was not from the artist but tapped into and borrowed from, like the Muse. Do you have a personal theory on creativity?
4. What is your writing process? Do you recite anything? Wear anything? Gaze at anything? Music?
5. The story of how we met … What do you think the value of an MFA is for a writer? Training? Growth? Community? Accountability? Discourse? Degree/Reputation?
6. I have taught photography for many years … Do you believe you can teach someone to write? Have you ever discouraged a student from pursuing writing? Or conversely, a writer from going to grad school?
7. How do you revise a novel? What is the novel writing process? What do you think of things like writer’s groups or hiring someone to help edit?
8. What were you like as a child? What did you want to be? How did you envision your life? How do you envision it ten years from now?
9. How are writing novels like having children?
10. When/how did you get your first novel published? Do you have any secret unpublished novels? Choose one piece of advice you have to a debut novelist:
11. I live with my boyfriend, also a writer. Have any advice for writer-writer relationships?
12. I am personally overwhelmed by what is expected of an author these days in social media and publicity. I had no idea what I was getting into. I love the personal contact with fans, but I’ve always said I only wanted to write in my pajamas. With a dog nearby perhaps. You don’t have a website as far as I can tell. Your Facebook fan page has 628 fans. No Twitter, I don’t think. I suppose at this point in a successful career, you can make your own rules. But what do you think of all this facebook, blog, Twitter stuff?
13. Tell me why you love to paint.
14. Your book Erasure deals with, among other issues, the publishing industry’s use (or misuse) of genre and categorization. In interviews, I am often asked about the meaning of ‘women’s fiction’ and told why my book shouldn’t have quantum physics in it. Can you talk about your views now on the marginalization effects of genre in the publishing industry? What happened when that book came out in 2002? What were people’s and publisher’s reactions to it?