Top Ten Tuesday: Questions I Would Ask My Favorite Authors

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.


Oh my God! It is the last TTT of August, of the Summer Holidays here in the UK… well, I suppose next week’s on the 1st of September is still technically part of the holiday because neither me nor my daughter return to school until the day after but it will be September! It’s been a strange old summer with Covid but I think we have done alright. One thing my daughter has enjoyed (bearing in mind she is only seven) is daily spelling tests – go figure!

Anyway, this week’s topic is fun and interesting but so so hard…

Questions to ask authors.

It should be easy, I mean I have listened to enough editions of Book Club and A Good Read on Radio Four that I should be armed with questions, but I’d probably just disintegrate into wordless gushing worship if I met most of my favourite authors so this is hard. I mean, I want to avoid the generic questions:”Where do you get your ideas from?” “Are you characters based on real people?”

Tana French, author of the Dublin Murder Squad series

Your series follows a number of fairly unreliable narrators from Rob in your first novel, In the Woods to Scorcher Kennedy in Broken Harbour. Allied to that, truth and justice seem very slippery concepts in your novels and your resolutions are rarely easy or comfortable. Why did you decide not to conform to the conventions of the detective genre?

You create fantastically intense relationships – the characters in The Likeness for example embody that, as do Rob and Cassie and the school girls in The Secret Place – but these don’t always feel very stable. How far do you feel those sorts of relationships – intense, closed and intimate – are healthy?

Your interviews are wonderfully tense and well written as well as coming across as procedurally accurate. I just wondered how much research you put into the books and how much your acting career helped to create that dialogue.

Akwaeke Emezi, Freshwater, Pet, The Death of Vivek Oji

Your debut novel, Freshwater, was written from a non-human, external point of view, the ọgbanje from Igbo culture; at the same time, Ada’s multiple identities also feel very psychologically convincing to me as a layman reader so I never felt that Ada was “possessed” in any way. How important was it to you to navigate that liminal space between possession and identity?

Your novels are incredibly hard-hitting and honest, with scenes of violence and self harm and sexual assault. But the words “rape”, “self-harm” and “suicide” are not used – and in Pet the abuse seems to be hidden behind the narrative language of a fairytale. Why did you make the decision to not name these acts in the conventional way? Did you feel that the language – clinical, legalistic, Western, patriarchal? – diminished from the human cost and impact of the acts?

There was a lot of publicity about your being included in the Women’s Prize longlist for fiction as a non-binary writer. How has that very public discussion of your gender identity affected you?

Max Porter, author of Lanny and Grief is the Thing With Feathers

The writing style and language you use in Lanny is extraordinary, especially when creating the soundscape of the villagers which become the voice of the village – and of course Dead Papa Toothwort is very much a listener. How did you develop such an ear for voice and the rhythm of speech and the lyricism of common conversation?

Lanny is learning to paint in the novel, taking lessons with “Mad Pete” who later becomes a suspect in Lanny’s disappearance and the soundscapes in the novel are rendered very visually. In some ways, it reminded me of comic books, which I mean as a compliment! I wondered what your views are on the relationship between literary and visual arts? Does our multi-modal multi-media world encourage interplay between those two disciplines enough?

Ali Smith, author of The Seasonal Quartet

Your Seasonal Quartet opened with the Brexit vote and contained a wonderful image in Autumn of the common land being fenced off and your “All across the country” chapter was beautiful. And it concluded with Covid-19 lockdowns and closed borders. At the same time, the novels are timeless and replete with classical and literary allusion. How on earth did you balance the eternal with the current so beautifully, and how did that affect the writing experience?

Many of the characters in many of your novels – How to be Both, Girl Meets Boy as well as the Seasonal Quartet – occupy a fluid and liminal space in terms of their identity. How important is that sort of space for you as a writer?

The Seasonal Quartet is so rich in allusion to myth, art, sculpture, theatre, cinema, literature – Dickens and Shakespeare perhaps most obvious amongst a plethora of others. Clearly this is part of your “cultural capital” if we have to use that term – where do you see the future of culture going in the multi-media age? What will be the icons for the future generation?

Finally, considering the chaos and tensions caught by your novels, how optimistic are you about the future? Summer seems to be quietly handing the baton over to a younger generation.

So, there we have it, and it was a strangely difficult process. I got to twelve questions rather than ten but there we go – there were dozens waiting to be asked once I began doing this because each question seem to generate three or four more! Interesting to see that a number of the authors received rather similar questions: liminal spaces have always been high on my wish list as a writer, and the question of identity seems critical in a number of these questions too.

Really looking forward to hearing your comments on these and the questions you have come up with for your authors!

Enjoy the last days of August!

Forthcoming Top Ten Tuesday Topics

  • September 1: Books that Make Me Hungry (They could have food items on the cover, foods in the title, be about foodies or have food as a main plot point… they could be cookbooks or memoirs, etc.)
  • September 8: Books for My Younger Self (These could be books you wish you had read as a child, books younger you could have really learned something from, books that meshed with your hobbies/interests, books that could have helped you go through events/changes in your life, etc.)
  • September 15: Cover Freebie (choose your own topic, centered on book covers or cover art)
  • September 22: Books On My Fall 2020 TBR (or spring if you live in the southern hemisphere)
  • September 29: Favorite Book Quotes (these could be quotes from books you love, or bookish quotes in general)

34 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Questions I Would Ask My Favorite Authors”

  1. Very thoughtful questions! I think you did a great job on them. I can’t wait to read the Death of Vivek Oji. It sounds so interesting! Also it’s so cute that your daughter likes spelling tests during her vacation. She’s definitely a future booknerd! 😋❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m in a strange place with school – being stuck in away from people is affecting my 5 year old’s mental health immensely, so we have gone out and bought everything she may need for going back in early September – but a the same time I’m not sure it’s safe to. It’s impossible to know what to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love each of these thoughtful questions. I’d like to see some of the answers to these as well!

    And I can’t believe this is the last week of August. We’ve been stuck at home most of the summer because of Covid, and yet somehow the summer has still managed to just fly.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree, it’s such a hard topic! Plus, when I meet an author I’m frozen and can’t even think of anything but I LOVE YOU! hahaha. Great list and great thoughtful questions!

    Liked by 1 person

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