Write what you know
Can you describe the moment you learned that The Imperfectionists sold to Dial?
My agent phoned from New York with the news. I stood there in my small apartment in Paris, shifting from leg to leg as she drew out the story. Finally, there it was: I had sold my novel. I put down the receiver, took a deep breath and began darting from one side of my living room to the other (not a great distance; about three strides each way), punching the air, shouting, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” until remembering that I had neighbors. Next, I ordered champagne to be sent to my agent, and popped a bottle myself, sending the cork flying from the living room, into the kitchen, out the open window.
Did you expect that you would draw from your career and write about journalists in your first novel?
I had intended to use my experiences abroad as inspiration for fiction—amassing interesting tales was the reason I entered international journalism. But I had never planned for journalists themselves to be the subject. However, the period I had witnessed was too fascinating not to write about: the press, after a history of reporting on collapse and chaos, was now the victim of collapse and chaos, as technology wiped out the foundations of traditional media.
Are you a full-time fiction writer now? If so, do you miss working in a newsroom? Do you have plans to contribute nonfiction pieces to newspapers or magazines in the future?
I do write fiction full-time now and don't particularly miss the newsroom. It's not always a congenial place to toil—often, its appeal depends on how far or near you are to headquarters. The nearer you are, the worse it typically is. Too many opinions, too many ambitions. I'm happier at a distance, reading the news rather than writing it. That said, I do intend to write nonfiction in the future—not breaking news anymore, but more deeply researched pieces. I hope that fiction remains my principal occupation, but that nonfiction makes intermittent appearances, too.
What news sources do you read every day? Do you still read print, or do you access everything online?
Most weeks, I read articles online from the New York Times/International Herald Tribune, Yahoo! News, Sporting Life, the Guardian, the Times of London, the Financial Times, the New Yorker. I still read a few print newspapers, depending on how the mood and circumstances strike me. And I always read the New York Review of Books on paper.
What’s up next? Are you working on another novel?
I'm making excellent progress on my new novel. I'm secretive about works in progress, so I apologize for not detailing its subject—even my closest companions have no idea what I'm writing until I have a finalized draft, and that is still a distance away. I can say, however, that this novel has nothing to do with journalists!