Andrew Sean Greer is the bestselling author of The Story of a Marriage and The Confessions of Max Tivoli, which was named one of the best books of 2004 by the San Francisco Chronicle and received a California Book Award. He lives in San Francisco.
Greer's latest novel is The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells.
From his Q & A with Andrew Dudley at Haighteration:
H: Your book is set in three specific time periods — 1918, 1941, and 1985. How did you arrive at these specific eras?Visit Andrew Sean Greer's website and follow him on Facebook.
ASG: When I threw away the first draft of this book, I was living in New York on a fellowship from the New York Public Library Cullman Center. That caused me to reset the book in New York. And by reading old books, pamphlets, newspapers and accounts, I began to sense which times interested me most. One day, I realized that each era was a mirror to another — through war and disease — I scribbled out a map of the novel on a cocktail napkin. Those reflections work throughout the book, and it was great fun to have her husband head to war in one era, only to return from a different war in another.
H: You have said that this book is not a time travel novel, and that’s true, though the protagonist does visit different time periods in a sense. One thing that struck me in reading this new book is that, if I were able to visit an earlier era, I would want to use my knowledge to my advantage. You know, profit on the stock market, warn people of upcoming catastrophes, that sort of thing. Without spoiling anything, the protagonist in your book generally does not do that. Was that a specific choice you made? If so, why?
ASG: At one point in the novel, she looks around a room in 1918 and thinks that somebody there would be an important force in history. Somebody else, if they had traveled to another world, could have warned people and changed things. But she was, herself, too small to move history. Too small to stop WWII or profit on stocks a decade before the crash; she can barely manage her love affairs! Personally, of course, I wasn’t interested in those time travel bits; the trick of alternative universes is just an excuse to experiment with how a woman’s life would be different depending on the time in which she lived. By which I mean her emotional life. I was too baffled by those complexities to consider working in a...[read on]
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