The Globe and Mail: Adam Haslett: 'Be brave'
Adam Haslett’s '92 first book, the short-story collection You Are Not a Stranger Here, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, while his first novel, 2010’s Union Atlantic, received the Lambda Literary Award. His second novel, Imagine Me Gone, was just published by Little, Brown.
Q: Why did you write your new book?
A: I wrote it because I had to. There were experiences of loss in my own family that I had to make sense of, and storytelling is the means I had at my disposal. It’s often said that you don’t choose your material, it chooses you, and I think that’s entirely true. The questions this book raises, in particular the question of how far will you go to save the people you love the most, was one I had to grapple with. I had no choice. I could grapple with it off the page or on the page. This book was that struggle.
Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: My first book was a collection of short stories. I sold it before I’d finished it, which surprised me, given that a lot of the material was what some people might consider “dark.” But my editor, Nan Talese, took the risk and gave me time to write three or four more stories, about a year or so. When I went to her office for the first time to discuss what I’d be working on as I completed the collection she gave me only one piece of advice: Be brave. I’ve always been thankful to her for saying that to me. It was exactly what I needed to hear, and what I think any writer needs to hear. It’s open-ended, it asks you to be both true to your own instincts, but to test the limits of what you think is permissible or doable. And it asks you to figure out what limits you’ve placed on yourself without realizing it. Be brave. That’s the best advice I’ve ever received.
Q: What scares you as a writer?
A: It would probably take less space to say what doesn’t scare me. I think a certain vigilance and worry have always been part of my working method. An affective expression of the censorious, internal editor. Finished work is the material that has been won over and against the standing self-accusation that what you produce is at best mediocre, and at worst lousy. I have some dim sense that now that I’ve finished my third book this may finally be shifting slightly, but only time will tell. When these fears get the better of you the result is caution, which is deadly. The point isn’t to rid oneself of the fears, but to acknowledge and then ignore them.
Read the full interview at The Globe and Mail.
Reviews of Haslett’s latest book, Imagine Me Gone, have appeared at The New York Times, NPR, Publishers Weekly, Boston Globe, and The Stranger, among other places. Additionally, Haslett was recently featured in Poet & Writers and had an essay on the inner life of the writer appear at Literary Hub.
Earlier this year, the American Academy of Arts and Letters announced that Haslett was awarded the Strauss Living award of $200,000.
Haslett graduated from the College with a B.A. in English literature. His short stories have been included in the O'Henry Prize Stories and Best American Short Stories. In addition, his honors include the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize finalist for You Are Not a Stranger, the Berlin Prize, the PEN/Malamud Award, the Lambda Literary Award for Union Atlantic, and Rockefeller Foundation and Guggenheim fellowships.