Author Essays

Author Essays

What makes a writer tick? How do they form the stories that change a reader’s life? From what they love to read, to their writing process, to ideas for their next book – you’ll get exclusive behind-the-scenes peeks at the literary life.

Suki Kim talks about her haunting memoir of teaching English to the sons of North Korea’s ruling class during the last six months of Kim Jong-il’s reign.

“Our rooms and offices were bugged,” Kim reveals. “Each building on campus was connected by an enclosed walkway with windows on either side, so everything everywhere was visible. We had to get permission for everything as though we were children. Thinking was dangerous, but there was also no time for thinking. It sometimes felt as though ‘I’ did not exist. This was a very foreign feeling—deeply claustrophobic and sometimes almost unbearable.”

Take a tour of the fictional the city of Bulikov with this beautiful interactive map – created by artist John Petersen for Robert Jackson Bennett’s novel City of Stairs.

One of the great pleasures of reading is that every reader “creates” a different book. We all bring different experiences to the page, and so we’re free to imagine these fictional worlds with characters and settings only we can see.

So it’s a real treat when an artist brings a book to life in a way that feels true. Illustrator John Petersen does just that with the city of Bulikov, the mind-bending setting of Robert Jackson Bennett’s novel City of Stairsa sci-fi novel for people who usually don’t read sci-fi.

For married people on Facebook, their spouse is the most assimilated member of their network an astounding 75 percent of the time.

“Highly assimilated couples function – the two people together – as the bond between otherwise unconnected cliques,” writes Christian Rudder, author of Dataclysm.

“They are the special glue in a given spread of dots, and furthermore, they’re a glue like epoxy: it takes both ingredients to make the thing hold together.”

O, Africa! is an epic tale of self-discovery, the constraints of history and prejudice, and the stubborn resolve of family and friendship in the face of tragedy.

In the summer of 1928, twin brothers Micah and Izzy Grand are at the pinnacle of their movie-making careers. From their roots as sons of Brooklyn immigrants, they have risen to become kings of silent comedy – with the brash, bloviating Micah directing and calling the shots, while his retreating brother skillfully works behind the lens. But when Micah’s penchant for gambling, and his interracial affair with Rose, a sharp-witted, light-skinned black woman from Harlem, combine to threaten his livelihood and his life, he finds himself in need of a quick escape.

“My novel Bittersweet is my attempt to write the kind of books I love to read when I’m on vacation,” says Miranda Beverly-Whittemore.

“My favorite beach reads mix high and low, they contain beautiful language and juicy plots, and they almost always contain some kind of central mystery, even if it’s not a traditional ‘whodunit’; I love a ‘what happened?’ (the darker the better, as far as I’m concerned!).”

Here are five of Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s favorite books to read in a deck chair.

Suddenly, at 40 years old, I moved to Luxembourg for my wife’s job. For the first time in the quarter-century since graduation, I had zero friends.

I needed to make new friends. It had never occurred to me that this would be a problem, because this had never been my problem. But now I apparently needed to walk into a roomful of people I didn’t know, stride up to one—any one—and say, “Hi, I’m Chris.”

I smiled far more frequently and insincerely than I wanted to. I joined a tennis club. I went to French classes, cooking classes, wine tastings. I became a class parent and spent far more than the necessary amount of time at my kids’ school.