Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Kevin Guilfoile Reading, TONIGHT!

Mystery One Bookstore @7pm, Kevin Guilfoile, author of The Thousand.

Review | Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

"It’s hard to imagine that a novelist could lift such elements from several of the best-known best sellers of recent years and turn them into something original and gripping, but that’s exactly what Mr. Guilfoile has done in The Thousand...(T)he book is jet-fueled by its author’s unerring sense of character and his nimble, fleet-footed prose. Just as he remade the Frankenstein myth in his first novel,
“Cast of Shadows” (2005)...so he manages to take a handful of well-trodden concepts here and refashion them into a suspenseful summer read that’s all his own... (T)he real pleasures of reading The Thousand have less to do with the story’s portentously withheld secrets than with Mr. Guilfoile’s keenly observed characters, his gritty feel for the city of Chicago and his ability to weave artfully all sorts of philosophical questions — like the relationship of music and math, and the morality of using scientific knowledge — into his hectic, bloodstained plot."


Kevin was kind enough to answer a few questions for me in anticipation of his reading this evening:

1. You have a varied background in baseball and creative design. How did fiction writing fit into your life while following those career paths?

I always wanted to be a writer, but it never occurred to me when I was younger that I could make a living as a novelist. It seemed like novelists were other people, people who were smarter than me and who knew stuff that I didn't. Sports marketing and advertising/design were ways I could be creative (and write) and get paid for it. Fiction was a hobby. Then in the late 90s I started getting freelance gigs writing humor for web sites and magazines. That introduced me to fiction writers and I started thinking that maybe I really could do it.

2. Have themes from those careers factored into your writing?

Good question. I don't know. I have never been one to follow the advice "Write what you know." What I know is already boring to me. I'd rather write what I'm curious about, which is why my first two novels were a medical thriller and a mash up of the legal thriller/conspiracy genres. I like to go to explore the unfamiliar more than the familiar.

3. Please describe your collaborations with John Warner and how it evolved.

John and I met when we were both living in Chicago and writing for McSweeney's in the late 90s, and we became great friends. Our first idea for a collaboration came during a road trip to Toronto for some McSweeney's mischief (a reading/performance in a bar we did with Dave Eggers and Neal Pollack). The idea we had was to write a series of fan letters from literary giants to Britney Spears. The resulting piece got a lot of attention, and we started collaborating regularly. A series of pieces we did during the 2000 Presidential campaign led to our first book: MY FIRST PRESIDENTIARY: A SCRAPBOOK BY GEORGE W. BUSH, which we wrote and illustrated in 19 days and which went to #1 on the Washington Post bestseller list. These days we're pretty busy (John teaches at Clemson and his first novel is coming out next year) but we still get together every spring to do the commentary for The Morning News Tournament of Books.

4. You're sitting outside a small cafe and you're thrilled when a certain author asks to share your table with you. Who is it and what do you most want to ask them?

One of the great things about becoming an author is that this happens all the time. When it does, we spend about a third of the time discussing sports or politics or some unrelated matter, a third on some bit of writing gossip or discussing some aspect of the craft of writing, and a third complaining about the thousands of annoying aspects of publishing that we have no control over.

5. The Thousand is pubbing 5 years after your first book, Cast of Shadows. Was this time spent researching, resting, planning, or none of the above?

Cast of Shadows sold to Knopf just two months after I had finished it. I hadn't even thought about the next book at that point. Then there was a year of revising and editing, a year of promoting, somewhere in there I lost a year to potty training my son. I'm just not a fast writer. I tend to write much more than I need and then cut it way, way down. It's like I have to build the shapeless block of stone first, and then carve my novel out of that.

6. It's Halloween and you're asked to dress up as your favorite literary character. Who do you go as and what is the costume comprised of?

I suspect it might involve a tennis racket and this t-shirt with "Pemulis" on the back.


Thank you so much for the interview, Kevin! I am definitely attending this event tonight, are you?

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