Adam Haslett is the author of the short story collection You Are Not a Stranger Here and the novel Union Atlantic. His story collection was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, and his books have been translated into eighteen languages. His journalism and fiction have appeared in The Financial Times, Esquire, New York Magazine, The New Yorker, The Nation, The Atlantic Monthly, Zoetrope All-Story, Best American Short Stories, The O'Henry Prize Stories, and National Public Radio's Selected Shorts. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Fine Arts Work Center, and in 2006, he won the PEN/Malamud Award for accomplishment in short fiction. He has also won the PEN/Winship Award for the best book by a New England author. A graduate of Swarthmore College, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and Yale Law School, he has been a visiting professor at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and Columbia University.
Haslett, who is half English on his father's side, was born in Port Chester, New York, and grew up in Kingston, Massachusetts for the first nine years of his life before his family moved to Oxfordshire, England. The family moved back to the United States three years later to Wellesley, Massachusetts, where Haslett attended high school. After college at Swarthmore, he worked for George Trescher Associates in New York and for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. His first period of full-time writing came when he received a seven-month fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Following that he went to the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where he completed most of what would become his first book. After Iowa, he attended Yale Law School, during which time he worked at a U.S. Attorney's office, a prison legal services clinic, and a New York City law firm. In 2002, he moved back to New York where he has lived and worked since.
That same year You Are Not a Stranger Here was published, and Haslett was featured twice on NBC's Today Show and given the New York Magazine Writer-of-the-Year Award. The book went on to be a New York Times Bestseller and to be nominated for a Pulitzer and a National Book Award.
After finishing law school, Haslett began work on the novel that eventually became Union Atlantic. While fiction has been his chief focus, he has also published essays and reviews, occasionally taught undergraduate and graduate fiction writing, and assisted in the writing of several books on U.S. tax politics and policy with a former professor of his from Yale.
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A Conversation with Adam Haslett, Author of Union Atlantic
Q: Union Atlantic has two main story lines. One is about a conflict over a piece of land between two neighbors, Charlotte Graves, a retired history teacher, and Doug Fanning, a young banker; the other is about the financial troubles at the bank where Doug works. How did these two events come together for you as you wrote the novel?
A: The characters are what came first. I created each of them separately before I ever knew how they would inhabit the same novel. The first was Charlotte's brother Henry Graves, the president of the New York Federal Reserve, whose first sections I wrote ten years ago. I'd become fascinated by this idea of the anonymous power that the Fed and other public and private bureaucracies have over our daily lives and I wanted to place a character at the pinnacle of one of those organizations, mostly to discover for myself how that kind of mind would work. That, in turn, gave me the idea of a troubled bank that the Fed would be regulating, and thus a banker, who became Doug Fanning. Charlotte was the other major figure and it was in writing about her as she lived alone with her dogs in the semi-rural town of Finden that I came up with the ...
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