I’d like to thank Andrew Harwell for agreeing to be the first person in my new Quick Questions series! Andrew is an editor at HarperCollins and a children’s book writer. He lives in Brooklyn, as almost all editors are required to do. According to his website, he may or may not believe in magic. Originally from Georgia, Andrew graduated from the University of Chicago.Andrew’s first book for young readers, The Spider Ring, is coming out in January 2015. You can preorder it at Indiebound, B&N, or Amazon . It’s a spooky modern fairy tale about a girl who inherits a magical ring from her grandmother, but it’s also about friendship, grief, and the power of stories to ensnare and define us. Here are your questions, Andrew! Go!
- What book have you read in the past year (that you didn’t write or edit yourself) that you want everyone to read? Why?
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. This is the first book I’ve ever read that made me cry only after I’d turned the last page, and the cumulative weight of so many building emotions and themes caught up to me in one overwhelming fermata. Taking the image of an artist carving a sculpture out of stone, this book explores how it feels to be encased in stone metaphorically—inert—and then to break free of that and forgive yourself, move forward. This book carved me out of stone, for sure. I want everyone to experience that lightness.
- What bit of editorial/writing advice would you like to give to writers?
My favorite piece of writing advice comes to me from an interview with Holly Black: “The universal is in the specific.” That is, getting one small, fresh detail exactly right is infinitely more compelling than trying to capture broad appeal through generalizations. Don’t tell me a character loves poetry and expect us to be on the same page regarding what that means—tell me a character snuck out of school to hear Patti Smith read at a local bookstore and let me think, I know this person.
- If you could have a cocktail or a cup of tea with one person from history, what would you drink, who would it be, and why do you want to hang out with them?
I’d love to have a cup of strong coffee with Susan Sontag. After reading so many of her essays and journals, I feel like we’re already old friends, and I could ask her about anything and learn a great deal. At the very least, we could discuss the University of Chicago and our shared love of Thomas Mann.
- If you won 50 million dollars, what would you do? Would you still work in publishing?
You know, I think I would still work in publishing. I would get bored very quickly otherwise. I also would buy better groceries and maybe this converted clock tower penthouse. Honestly, I’m missing the part of my brain that allows me to visualize long distances or large sums—50 million dollars and 500 mabrillion dollars seem like the same absurd number to me.
- If you could wave a magic wand and have any kind of manuscript land on your desk what would it be about?
I don’t know what the manuscript would be about—probably about magic wands, knowing me—but I do know that it would follow characters who feel real because they have wants and make mistakes on their way to achieve them. Characters like Francesca Lia Block’s Witch Baby, or Noah and Jude from I’ll Give You the Sun. My favorite books are the ones that leave me excited to be alive because I’ve been through something redemptive with the characters, whether that be an adventurous quest, a moment of self-forgiveness, or a harrowing horror story. I’d love to find a manuscript like that.
You can find Andrew on Twitter, Pinterest, and tumblr @andrewasalways.
Thanks for playing on The Blabbermouth Blog, Andrew! Your generosity of spirit and words is always appreciated.