Joshua Ferris's first novel, Then We Came to the End, won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, the Barnes and Noble Discover Award, and was a National Book Award finalist. His fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, The Guardian, and Tin House, among other publications. His second novel is The Unnamed. He lives in New York.
Says Ferris about himself:
I was born in 1974 in Danville, Illinios, a small town just over the Indiana border. I went back recently and the house where I grew up had taken something out of Alice in Wonderland and shrunk to half the size of what I remembered it being. In 1984 my mother, sister, brother and I moved with my step-father to Cudjoe Key, Florida, where I learned how to fish, boat, snorkel, and work. At ten I had my own landscaping company for Cudjoe residents happy to pay three bucks an hour to have their weeds pulled and lawns mowed. I had my first proper job at Godfather's Pizza in 1985, busing tables and washing dishes. I moved back to Illinois, to Downers Grove, a suburb of Chicago, where I attended high school, after which I went to the University of Iowa, where I received a BA in English and Philosophy. I got my first job in advertising in 1998, at a Chicago firm called Davis Harrison Dion, and also worked for Draft Worldwide, before leaving Chicago for Long Beach, California and the MFA program at the University of California, Irvine.
Joshua Ferris's website
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A Conversation with Joshua Ferris about his first novel, Then We Came to the End
Tell us a little about your writing
background up to this point
I lived in Key West as a kid, and there I started writing imitation Alfred Hitchcock stories not "The Birds" but, given Key West's coastal view, "The Crabs." Many good people, boaters and sunbathers, were eaten alive as Hitchcock turned in his grave. Then in college, at the University of Iowa, I started writing stories again again imitations but with sights set a little higher, or at least more literary: Nabokov, Barthelme. Shortly after college I got a job in advertising where I wrote ad copy for national brands, which taught me a good many things. And after my time in advertising I enrolled in the MFA program at the University of California, Irvine, where I started Then We Came to the End.
So you had experience working in an ad agency. Is that how you arrived at the setting of your novel?
Ad agencies can be a lot of fun. Creative departments are full of toys and games and wacky surprises, and throwing a Nerf football down the hallway to release tension isn't immediate cause for walking papers. I wanted my characters...
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