I just came across this early interview with J.K. Rowling (probably from late 1998 or early 1999). She's sitting in the now famous Edinburgh House cafe in Edinburgh where she wrote the early Harry Potter books. She looks, frankly, exhausted, but hugely excited to have sold 30,000 copies of her first two books - especially as her agent told her, "there's not much money in children's books." She goes on to say that she's always wanted to write but "my realistic side had not allowed me to dream about half of what has happened to me," - this in reference to her agent selling the first two Harry Potter books to eight countries so, as she says with huge excitement, "it will be translated in France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Italy and Finland ... I love the idea of saying I'm big in Finland!"
Is it just me, or does there seem to be a wave of "intersecting lives" novels lately? I'm talking about novels which are structured around characters and place and which move forward episodically, rather than via a driving, suspenseful plot, a genre which is also sometimes called "a novel in stories." Two of the most decorated books of recent years fall into this category: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout and Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. Other recent entries include A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert, Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon, and the forthcoming The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse.
Within minutes of becoming a grandmother at 58, I realized that my take on my new role in no way resembled a Hallmark greeting card. I didn't know exactly what sort of grandmother I would be, but I was fairly certain that I would not turn into some sweet, silly, sexless, cookie-baking, compulsively knitting stereotype.
Because I'm a writer and and writing is how I make sense of my life, I started taking notes. There was plenty to write about. For one thing, I had no idea how I fit into the new order. It seemed as if my newborn granddaughter, Isabelle Eva, was mine but not mine--emphasis on the not. I knew her parents loved me, but how much did they want me around? How much did I want to be around? And how best to cope with the five other grandparents, all vying for the attention of one small infant?
Elif Shafak, the most widely read woman writer in Turkey whose books include The Bastard of Istanbul, explains how Sufism influenced her latest book, The Forty Rules of Love ...
My interest in Sufism began when I was a college student. At the time I was a rebellious young woman who liked to wrap several shawls of "–isms" around her shoulders: I was a leftist, feminist, nihilist, environmentalist, anarcho-pacifist.... I wasn't interested in any religion and the difference between "religiosity" and "spirituality" was lost to me. Having spent some time of my childhood with a loving grandmother with many superstitions and beliefs, I had a sense the world was not composed of solely material things and there was more to life than I could see. But the truth is, I wasn't interested in understanding the world. I only wanted to change it.