Cheltenham Q & A - A.D. Miller
We here at Waterstones put our heads together and came up with seven snappy author questions and put them to the authors appearing at Cheltenham Literature Festival (which runs from the 2nd - 11th October). The result? Read for yourself.
Fifth in the series: A. D. Miller.
A. D. Miller’s first novel, Snowdrops – a study in moral degradation set in modern Russia – was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the James Tait Black Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Awards, the CWA Gold Dagger and the Galaxy National Book Awards, and was longlisted for the IMPAC award. It has been translated into twenty-five languages. His second novel, The Faithful Couple, a story of friendship and remorse, is published in 2015.
You can see A.D. Miller in conversation at Cheltenham Literature Festival on Sun 4 Oct 2015, 6pm - 7pm alongside Tom Rob Smith.
What book do you wish that you had written?
Despite being consumed by envy in other respects, I don't really think about novels in that way. You can only write your own books, and I can't really imagine producing anyone else's. Having said that, if I'd written Heart of Darkness, I would be fairly pleased with myself.
Just as your books inspire readers, what authors inspired you to write?
Influence is a dangerous thing, I think, especially for new-ish novelists: it has perpetually to be resisted. But authors from whom I can't seem to escape include Dostoevsky and Isaac Babel. And Chekhov: lots of Russians. I read a lot of Graham Greene when I was a younger and he seems to have rubbed off, too.
Once you've had the initial idea for a book, do you create the plot first or do you begin writing straight away, looking to discover the story and characters along the way?
For me, writing a book is like building a house: I need to know the shape and dimensions, if not all the incidental details, before I begin. I know there are people who sit down with a blank moleskin notebook and write, but I can't envisage doing it that way. I plan--a lot.
Do you read your reviews? How do you respond to them, good or bad? Any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I've been lucky in the reviews of my books, but you always get someone who doesn't like them--every author does--and most of the time, when the grief subsides, the criticism can be useful. You learn from it, and hopefully make a higher class of mistake in your next novel.
If you were trapped on a desert island, which two books would you want to have with you and why?
The Brothers Karamazov and Crocodiles Are The Best Animals of All, which would remind me of my children.
Who else do you wish to see while at the Cheltenham festival?
I'm very sad and sorry to say that, because I live in America at the moment, mine will be a fleeting visit. But I would have loved to hear Don McCullin. What a life.
What was the last book you read?
A Confederacy of Dunces by J.K. Toole. I was in New Orleans, where it is set. It is very very funny.