Kate Atkinson and Reagan Arthur Do Book Passage
I spent the better part of April in San Francisco housesitting four dogs. The weather was warm and sunny, and I had a fantastic time going to museums, hiking, hearing live music, and visiting with friends, old and new. One of the highlights was hanging out at Book Passage both downtown and in Corte Madera. I met a few of the staff I knew through Twitter – Melissa and Sam – and I was thrilled to go to a reading by Kate Atkinson who was there for her new book Life After Life. (Read my review here.) Her editor and now publisher, Reagan Arthur, came with her. They were both funny and smart, but unfortunately, you won’t glean that from what follows. There was a strict policy of no recordings, and pics weren’t allowed until the event was over.
When I have to take notes in longhand and don’t have the luxury of taking dozens of pics, you get a bunch of stray soundbites out of context, and a couple of pics that leave a lot to be desired. However, what I took away from the reading and Q & A was the knowledge that Kate Atkinson is as fascinating and funny, in the dark way that I love, as her characters are in her latest novel. As far as the charismatic Reagan Arthur goes, well let’s just say that she had the audience laughing out loud with her publishing stories. I would love to have both of them at my dream dinner party someday.
This is all I got:
– Reagan Arthur loves everything about Kate. She said, “It’s hard for me to talk about Kate without gushing. If Kate writes anything, it’s amazing.”
– With regard to the beautiful blue end papers in Life After Life, Arthur said they Googled William Morris wallpaper to find one they liked. When they sent it to Kate for approval, she said it was her dining room wallpaper.
– Atkinson said, “I learned to write by reading others.” Indeed, she references a lot of writers in her own work, and tells aspiring writers: “You have to read everything that’s ever been written.”
– About her writing process Atkinson said, “I have to have the title first. If I don’t have a title, I can’t write the book. I rewrite the first page 100 times. I rewrite the first chapter 100 times.”
– When asked if the character Jackson Brodie would be coming back she said, “Not yet. He’s on an extended cruise. If I live long enough, he will come back.”
– Atkinson said her main character in Life After Life “suffers from an immense sense of deja vu,” which is a huge understatement.
– She does not pre-plot which is amazing given all the hopping around the characters do. Atkinson said, “I have the ability to hold the whole book in my head while I’m writing it.”
– On how she became a reader/writer: “I’m an only child. Only children read a great deal. I lived in my imagination.”
– On why and when she became a writer: “I did a doctorate. I failed a doctorate. So I started writing. I never wrote a word until I was 31.”
Life After Life, Little, Brown and Company, 2013