Robert Penn Warren once joked that many would-be writers want to “have written” instead of wanting “to write.” So I guess I’m fortunate to enjoy the actual writing process: the time alone in front of the blank page when I can translate what’s inside me into words and transfer that to the page.
If you could have dinner with any literary character, who would it be and what would you eat?
My choice would be the narrator Nick Jenkins from Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time, because it’s clear this character is a stand-in for the author, who sounds like he was a delightful British gentleman as well as a literary genius. What a wonderful—and rare—combination. Of course we would dine at Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant.
If your book/story were to be made into a movie, who would you cast as the leads?
I’d love to see Cicely Tyson perform the role of the black midwife in the one-woman show I’ve adapted from my book Motherwit: An Alabama Midwife’s Story. If he were still alive, Philip Seymour Hoffmann would be perfect for the Capote-esque Eugene Walter of Milking the Moon: A Southerner’s Story of Life on this Planet. (Gore Vidal wrote me that Eugene Walter was known as “the other Capote; the good one.) And if Nathan Lane could put on a few hundred pounds, he’s the one to portray the monstrously obese schoolteacher in my novel The Headmaster’s Darlings.
If you had a time machine, which era would you go back to and why?
I would never wish to go back in time because I rely on modern medicine.
What life advice do you wish you’d been given sooner?
Life is not a meritocracy. The USA is not a meritocracy. The capitalist/corporate publishing establishment in New York is not a meritocracy—literary or otherwise. Get over it and get on with life and work as a writer regardless.
If you were a supernatural creature, what would you be and why?
I’m a huge fan of George R.R. Martin, so I’d like to be a direwolf. Nothing is more important than protecting the remaining Starks and helping to restore order to Westeros.
I write best on the couch in my study, with my ruby Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Cinnamon, next to me. I also write best with freshly sharpened Ticonderoga pencils in contact with a white legal pad. A computer which emits the hum of machinery and constantly pings with incoming email and various updates and alerts is not conducive to my writing process.
What was the last book you read, and what were your thoughts on it?
The last two books I read were The Power of the Dog, by Don Winslow, and its recently released follow-up, The Cartel. These two novels provide a fascinating depiction of the evolution of the drug trade, the rise of the cartels, and the collapse of government institutions in Mexico, along with a trenchant analysis of the American policies, programs and government agencies which have contributed to the problem instead of alleviating it. Oh, and by the way, both these books are a page-turning great read.
If you didn’t write in your genre, which other would you prefer and why?
I’d write crime fiction or detective novels because I think all novels are fundamentally Whodunits. Who did what and why? is the essence of all good narratives regardless of genre, and I like how crime fiction brings the reader face-to-face with the essence of narrative. I’ve learned a lot about narrative structure and plot pacing from detective fiction.
If I had the talent and the knowledge, I’d write espionage or spy thrillers, because in these books the author can engage with important events of history and politics in a global context and also in a compelling way for the reader. And when a spy is the protagonist, it allows the novel to explore existential issues of identity.
Where can fans find you online?
Readers can find me on Facebook and at www.KatherineClarkBooks.com.