Jason Starr: How do you get such a great sense of America in your writing?Read the full Q & A.
Publishers often throw around the ambiguous term ‘the big book’. What do you consider a ‘big book’?
Sharp: Wow, I take it as a big compliment that you think I’ve got a sense of America in my books, Jason. Thanks you! We’ve spent a lot of time in America over the past seventeen years - I think the tour last September was our 35th visit. And we’ve been to some fairly off-the-map areas, which gives you a real feel for different places. I think being a photographer helps. I do a lot of location shoots for the magazines I work for, which I have to find very quickly qonce we arrive in a particular place, so I’m used to driving around looking out for interesting backgrounds. Plus I get bored quickly if I have to read great swathes of description, so I try not to write it. I’m always aiming to capture a place or a person in as few words as possible. A snapshot rather than a portfolio.
‘Big book’ is an interesting concept, isn’t it? I think it’s something that captures the spirit of the moment. I have been having a conversation similar to this with Ali Karim recently, and we kicked around the idea that a breakout book is something that really plugs into a zeitgeist. And we all know how long it takes to plan and write a book, and then for it to go through the production process, there really is a huge amount of luck involved in striking just the right note at the right time when it finally hits the shelves. I would also take a guess and say it usually falls outside a series, a more weighty, character-based novel, and has a theme that can be summed up in a few words rather than half a page. A real ‘high-concept’ idea, to borrow a phrase from the movie industry. Does that sound about right? If you find out the answer, can you let me know?