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Drunk on Ink Q & A with Ruth Franklin and “Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life”

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series conducted by Soniah Kamal, Jaggery Blog Editor and author of  the novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan. 

 

Ruth Franklin is a book critic and former editor at The New Republic. Her book Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life (2016) won numerous awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography, and was named a New York Times Notable Book of 2016, a Time magazine top nonfiction book of 2016, and a “best book of 2016” by The Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, and others. She is also the author of A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction (2011), which was a finalist for the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Writing. Her criticism and essays appear in many publications, including the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, the New York Review of Books, and Harper’s. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in biography, a Cullman Fellowship at the New York Public Library, a Leon Levy Fellowship in biography, and the Roger Shattuck Prize for Criticism.

About Shirley Jackson A Rather Haunted Life

Instantly heralded for its “masterful” and “thrilling” portrayal (Boston Globe), Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life reveals the tumultuous life and inner darkness of the literary genius behind such classics as “The Lottery” and The Haunting of Hill House. In this “remarkable act of reclamation” (Neil Gaiman), Ruth Franklin envisions Jackson as “belonging to the great tradition of Hawthorne, Poe and James” (New York Times Book Review) and demonstrates how her unique contribution to the canon “so uncannily channeled women’s nightmares and contradictions that it is ‘nothing less than the secret history of American women of her era’ ” (Washington Post). Franklin investigates the “interplay between the life, the work, and the times with real skill and insight, making this fine book a real contribution not only to biography, but to mid-20th-century women’s history” (Chicago Tribune). “Wisely rescu[ing] Shirley Jackson from any semblance of obscurity” (Lena Dunham), Franklin’s invigorating portrait stands as the definitive biography of a generational avatar and an American literary genius.

SONIAH KAMAL: First author/book you read/fell in love with?

RUTH FRANKLIN: The first book I was truly, madly, head over heels obsessed with was Emily of New Moon, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s coming-of-age story about a girl who wants to be a writer. I even named two trees in our backyard after Emily and her best friend, Ilse. Emily was everything I wanted to be: orphaned, psychic, and an amazing writer.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Dirty martini (gin, obviously) with lots of olives.

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading?

It should be mandatory just to read, period.

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

Moby-Dick. Will I ever make the time for it now?

A favorite quote from your book J

Can I give my favorite Shirley Jackson quote instead? It’s the first line of The Haunting of Hill House:

“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.”

Your favorite book to film?

Rebecca. Film and book are both great.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Shout-out to my locals, Community Bookstore in Brooklyn and McNally Jackson in Manhattan. I’ll never get tired of browsing in The Strand. On my book tour, I visited Midtown Scholar in Harrisburg and was blown away by their gorgeous building and huge selection.

The one thing you wish you’d known about the writing life?

Writing anything—a biography, a book review, an email, this questionnaire—takes at least twice as long as I think it will.

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each book published?

I definitely found the process easier for my second book than for my first. But I wrote my first book with two tiny children and tried to market it while going through a divorce, so just about anything would be better than that. In all seriousness, though, one thing that helped with SHIRLEY JACKSON was that I connected with readers throughout the writing process via social media. There are a lot of Jackson fans out there, and it was fun to be able to share tidbits about my research along the way—like the barn full of previously undiscovered letters I was lucky enough to find.

Dog, Cat, Or?

#TeamCat all the way.

Mimi (black & brown) and Houdini (gray)

Favorite book cover?

Funny, this question gave me the most trouble of them all. I’m not a very visual person, and either book covers don’t linger in my mind or they become inseparable from the experience of reading the book itself.

Favorite song?

Heroes” by David Bowie or “Aicha” by Cheb Khaled (for sentimental reasons).

Favorite Small Press and Literary Journal?

Europa Editions, although do they still count as a small press after publishing Ferrante? Pushkin Press has the most adorable little editions of classics. As for literary journal, RIP Tin House.

Last impulse book buy and why?

I’m embarrassed to say I impulse-buy books all the time. I just treated myself to two new cookbooks—Saladish by Irene Rosen and The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook—because I’m bored with all my food. I also just bought both of Zadie Smith’s essay collections to potentially use in a criticism class I’ll be teaching next semester.

Soniah Kamal is an award winning essayist and fiction writer. Her novel Unmarriageable: Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan, a parallel retelling of Pride and Prejudice and set in contemporary Pakistan, has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal.  NPR calls it ‘thought provoking and deliciously readable’ and People Magazine says “This inventive retelling of Pride and Prejudice charms.” Unmarriageable is an Amazon Best Books pick, a People Magazine’s Pick, a New York Post Best Book pick, a Library Reads pick and more. Soniah’s debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Award for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and is an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s short story ‘Jelly Beans’ was selected for the Best South Asian Short Stories Anthology 2017. Her TEDx talk is about regrets and redemption. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, Catapult, The Normal School, Literary Hub, and has been widely anthologized. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Georgia State University where she was a Paul Bowles Fellow in Fiction. She currently teaches creative writing at Rhineheart University and reviews books for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Soniah will be giving a keynote address at the Jane Austen Summer Program Conference (2019) and she is a Jane Austen Literacy Ambassador. She was born in Pakistan, grew up in England and Saudi Arabia, and currently resides in Georgia.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Mike Chen: Here and Now and Then, a novel

Ruth Franklin: Shirley Jackson A Rather Haunted Life, biography

Colleen Oakley: Before I Go, a novel

Emily Midorikawa: A Secret Sisterhood: The literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, biography

Shabnam Samuel: A Fractured Life, memoir

Elise Hooper: The Other Alcott, a novel

Anne Boyd Rioux: Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, non fiction

Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen, non fiction

Kristen Miller ZohnThe Currency of Taste- Gibbons Georgian Silver, coffee table book

Vanessa HuaA River of Stars, novel

Chaitli SenThe Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz BathenaA Girl Like That, YA novel

 

 

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Colleen Oakley and ‘Before I Go’

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series conducted by Soniah Kamal, Jaggery Blog Editor and author of the forthcoming novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan. 

Colleen Oakley is an Atlanta-based writer and author of the novel Before I Go. Her articles, essays, and interviews have been featured in The New York Times, Ladies’ Home Journal, Marie Claire, Women’s Health, Redbook, Parade, and Martha Stewart Weddings. Before she was a freelance writer, Colleen was editor in chief of Women’s Health & Fitness and senior editor at Marie ClaireClose Enough to Touch is her second novel.

About Before I Go

Twenty-seven-year-old Daisy already beat breast cancer four years ago. How can this be happening to her again? On the eve of what was supposed to be a triumphant “Cancerversary” with her husband Jack to celebrate four years of being cancer-free, Daisy suffers a devastating blow: her doctor tells her that the cancer is back, but this time it’s an aggressive stage four diagnosis. She may have as few as four months left to live. Death is a frightening prospect—but not because she’s afraid for herself. She’s terrified of what will happen to her brilliant but otherwise charmingly helpless husband when she’s no longer there to take care of him. It’s this fear that keeps her up at night, until she stumbles on the solution: she has to find him another wife. With a singular determination, Daisy scouts local parks and coffee shops and online dating sites looking for Jack’s perfect match. But the further she gets on her quest, the more she questions the sanity of her plan. As the thought of her husband with another woman becomes all too real, Daisy’s forced to decide what’s more important in the short amount of time she has left: her husband’s happiness—or her own?

SONIAH KAMAL: First author/book you read/fell in love with?

COLLEEN OAKLEY: A Birthday for Frances by Russell Hoban

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Wine!

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading?

Too many to list!

Book: White Fragility by Robin Diangelo

Essay: The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates (published in The Atlantic)

Poem: Good Bones by Maggie Smith

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

No, I was a nerd and read everything required of me. However, I didn’t come to love Their Eyes Were Watching God until I re-read it as an adult. It’s now one of my favorite books of all time, which I think is an interesting, beautiful thing: how books don’t change, but the experience of reading them can vary wildly based on a reader’s perspective.

Favorite quote from your book 

“I suppose all couples feel this way at some point—that their bond is the most special, the strongest, the Greatest Love of All. Not all the time, just in those few and far between moments where you look at the person you’re with and think: Yes. It’s you.”

Favorite book to film?

Atonement. It perfectly evoked the very same emotions I had while reading the book. Which is to say, I cried buckets.

 Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

All of them! But I especially love Annell Gerson at The Book Miser in Roswell and all the foxy foxes at FoxTale in Woodstock.

The one think you wish you’d known about the writing life?

That the quicker you grow a thick skin the better— I’m still waiting for mine to come in.

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?

No.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Dogs!

Ideal vacation?

Somewhere picturesque, quiet, off the beaten path with perfectly crafted cocktails and endless books to read.

Favorite book cover?

The Immortalists  by Chloe Benjamin

Favorite song?

For Good, from Wicked the Musical

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

A Public Space Journal

Last impulse book buy and why?

Becoming, by Michelle Obama. How can anyone resist? She is everything.

Soniah Kamal is an award winning essayist and fiction writer. Her novel Unmarriageable: Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan, a parallel retelling of Pride and Prejudice and set in contemporary Pakistan, has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal.  NPR calls it ‘thought provoking and deliciously readable’ and People Magazine says “This inventive retelling of Pride and Prejudice charms.” Unmarriageable is an Amazon Best Books pick, a People Magazine’s Pick, a New York Post Best Book pick, a Library Reads pick and more. Soniah’s debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Award for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and is an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s short story ‘Jelly Beans’ was selected for the Best South Asian Short Stories Anthology 2017. Her TEDx talk is about regrets and redemption. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, Catapult, The Normal School, Literary Hub, and has been widely anthologized. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Georgia State University where she was a Paul Bowles Fellow in Fiction. She currently teaches creative writing at Rhineheart University and reviews books for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Soniah will be giving a keynote address at the Jane Austen Summer Program Conference (2019) and she is a Jane Austen Literacy Ambassador. She was born in Pakistan, grew up in England and Saudi Arabia, and currently resides in Georgia.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Mike Chen: Here and Now and Then, a novel

Ruth Franklin: Shirley Jackson A Rather Haunted Life, biography

Colleen Oakley: Before I Go, a novel

Emily Midorikawa: A Secret Sisterhood: The literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, biography

Shabnam Samuel: A Fractured Life, memoir

Elise Hooper: The Other Alcott, a novel

Anne Boyd Rioux: Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, non fiction

Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen, non fiction

Kristen Miller ZohnThe Currency of Taste- Gibbons Georgian Silver, coffee table book

Vanessa HuaA River of Stars, novel

Chaitli SenThe Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz BathenaA Girl Like That, YA novel

 

 

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Emily Midorikawa and ‘A Secret Sisterhood: The literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf’

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series conducted by Soniah Kamal, Jaggery Blog Editor and author of the forthcoming novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan. 

Emily Midorikawa is the author of A Secret Sisterhood: The literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bront?, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, co-written with Emma Claire Sweeney and with a foreword by Margaret Atwood. Emma and Emily also run the website Something Rhymed, which celebrates female literary friendship. Emily is a winner of the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize. Her journalism has appeared in, among others, the Daily Telegraph, the Paris Review, The Times and the Washington Post.

About A Secret Sisterhood

A Secret Sisterhood tells the stories of the literary friendships of Jane Austen and amateur-playwright / family-governess Anne Sharp; Charlotte Bronte and early feminist author Mary Taylor; the seemingly aloof George Eliot and ebullient Harriet Beecher Stowe; and Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf, most often portrayed as bitter foes, but who, in fact, enjoyed a complex creative bond.

SONIAH KAMAL: First author/book you read/fell in love with? Why?

EMILY MIDORIKAWA: As a child, I loved Enid Blyton’s mystery stories and also her school stories, especially the Malory Towers series. I was a big fan of Judy Blume too.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

I love a cup of tea or a glass of red wine.

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading? 

Anything by Jean Rhys is worth reading. I read After Leaving Mr Mackenzie when I was a teenager and it completely blew me away. Her writing made me feel that (in skilled hands like Rhys’s) there were no limits to what language could do).

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

I’ve somehow never got round to reading War and Peace.

Favorite quote

I love Harriet Beecher Stowe’s comment in a letter to George Eliot that book-writing, from an author’s perspective, resembles ‘a hand stretched forth in the dark passage of life to see if there is another hand to meet it’.

Favorite book to film? 

Peter Weir’s 1975 film of Joan Lindsay’s novel Picnic at Hanging Rock is immensely atmospheric and stays true to the atmosphere of the novel. I love re-watching it. I think Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, adapted from Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch, is great too.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

This is really tough, since I have quite a few favorites, but perhaps it’s Persephone Books in London – home of the publisher of the same name. They publish works by neglected, mostly female authors from the mid-twentieth century, and their small shop is a lovely place to discover forgotten literary treasures.

The one think you wish you’d known about the writing life?

It’s easier with good friends. As a child, I bought into the well-worn stereotype of the isolated writer – someone shut away in a garret with only their words for company! As such, I imagined writing would be a very solitary profession. Of course, the nature of authoring a book means that you are bound to spend many hours cooped up on your own, but my interest in writing has also led me to make many wonderful fellow-writer friends. I’m lucky to have met my Secret Sisterhood co-author Emma very early on in our careers, and so I’ve had her at my side right from the beginning. We give each other writerly advice, swap early drafts of stories, celebrate the good times together and help to pick the other one up whenever the going gets tough.

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?

In a way it does. You at least have the knowledge that you have done this before. You know that you can finish writing a book or a story. Regarding the publicity side of things, you’re also able to learn from past successes and misfires, in terms of what has worked or not worked in the past. On the other hand, each new project brings its own challenges. In many ways, it was a joy to work with Emma on A Secret Sisterhood, but when you have two authors – both with strong opinions – working on a single book this means that you are going to spend a lot of time debating the fine detail. This could occasionally get frustrating, but in the end we realized that, by arguing things out between us at a desk, we had taken our manuscript through a really rigorous drafting process even before we showed the final draft to our editors.

Dog, Cat, Or?

I have no pets.

Ideal vacation?

My mother was Japanese and I lived in Japan for a couple of years when I was in my early twenties, so I always love revisiting Japan – both the nostalgia of returning to old haunts and the excitement of discovering new places.

Favorite book cover?

I feel very lucky that the cover designer for A Secret Sisterhood did an excellent job of conveying what lay inside. Aside from this one, though – which of course holds a special place in my heart – I really like the beautiful yet chilling design for The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin.

Favorite song?

Again, it’s very hard to pick just one, but ‘Think’ by Aretha Franklin would be right up there.

Favorite painting/ work of art?

Abstraction White Rose by Georgia O’Keefe

Any Lit Festival anecdote you want a share? A great meeting with a fan? An epiphany?

Back in the autumn of 2017, Emma and I were delighted to give the keynote speech at the George Eliot Fellowship’s 46th Annual Lecture. Among the audience members was a sixth-form student, Jess Molyneux, who had travelled some distance to be there. We enjoyed talking with Jess and were so happy when she got in touch many months later to ask if we would be interested in featuring a post by her – on the literary friendship between Charlotte Mew and  May Sinclair – on our blog Something Rhymed. It’s always nice to meet readers at festivals, and especially when that meeting turns out to be just the start of a connection that stretches into the future.

What is your favorite Austen novel, and film adaptation? 

Sense and Sensibility – the Ang Lee picture starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet – is full of warmth and humour. I first saw it at the cinema when it came out in the mid-nineties and I feel that it has stood the test of time.

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

The Good Journal – a new British magazine featuring the work of UK writers of color.

Last impulse book buy and why?

A writer I follow on Instagram posted an image of Did She Kill Him?: A Victorian tale of deception, adultery and arsenic by Kate Colquhoun. I was instantly intrigued by the sound of this Victorian true crime and ordered it right away.

Soniah Kamal is an award winning essayist and fiction writer. Her novel Unmarriageable: Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan, a parallel retelling of Pride and Prejudice and set in contemporary Pakistan, has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal.  NPR calls it ‘thought provoking and deliciously readable’ and People Magazine says “This inventive retelling of Pride and Prejudice charms.” Unmarriageable is an Amazon Best Books pick, a People Magazine’s Pick, a New York Post Best Book pick, a Library Reads pick and more. Soniah’s debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Award for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and is an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s short story ‘Jelly Beans’ was selected for the Best South Asian Short Stories Anthology 2017. Her TEDx talk is about regrets and redemption. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, Catapult, The Normal School, Literary Hub, and has been widely anthologized. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Georgia State University where she was a Paul Bowles Fellow in Fiction. She currently teaches creative writing at Rhineheart University and reviews books for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Soniah will be giving a keynote address at the Jane Austen Summer Program Conference (2019) and she is a Jane Austen Literacy Ambassador. She was born in Pakistan, grew up in England and Saudi Arabia, and currently resides in Georgia.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Mike Chen: Here and Now and Then, a novel

Ruth Franklin: Shirley Jackson A Rather Haunted Life, biography

Colleen Oakley: Before I Go, a novel

Emily Midorikawa: A Secret Sisterhood: The literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, biography

Shabnam Samuel: A Fractured Life, memoir

Elise Hooper: The Other Alcott, a novel

Anne Boyd Rioux: Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, non fiction

Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen, non fiction

Kristen Miller ZohnThe Currency of Taste- Gibbons Georgian Silver, coffee table book

Vanessa HuaA River of Stars, novel

Chaitli SenThe Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz BathenaA Girl Like That, YA novel