Rachel Cantor is the author of the novels Good on Paper (Melville House 2016) and A Highly Unlikely Scenario (Melville House 2014). Two dozen of her short stories have appeared in venues like The Paris Review, One Story, Ninth Letter, Fence, and Kenyon Review, and she has received fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Millay Colony, and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn, where she is always at work on another book.
From Cantor's Q & A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Good on Paper, and why did you set it in the period leading up to Y2K?Visit Rachel Cantor's website.
A: I began writing Good on Paper when I was at a residency at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire.
I had hoped then to write the last story in a linked story collection about Shira Greene and her friends, but they gave me seven weeks, which was the longest time I’d ever had to write, and the story got larger and larger. Eventually, I realized I was writing a novel!
The characters predated the novel, then, and belonged to very particular generations—Shira had been something of a flower girl when she was young; her best friend Ahmad advised Republican presidents about the Soviet Union; the poet she translates was a World War II refugee. If Shira was to be the mother of a young child in this book, it really had to take place around the turn of the millennium.
I also had a very practical concern: I didn’t want the book to be about 9/11, I didn’t want to write about 9/11 New York, so it had to take place before that. Setting it around Y2K had some comic potential, but the idea that we were facing the End of Days also resonated with certain themes in the novel.
Q: Shira is involved in translating the work of a famous writer. Why did you decide to focus on translation and writing in the novel?
A: Because my protagonist had a life before Good on Paper, it was already a given that she was a translator, and it’s not surprising that she is: she...[read on]
See Cantor's list of the ten worst jobs in books.
The Page 69 Test: A Highly Unlikely Scenario.
The Page 69 Test: Good on Paper.