How to pronounce Chris Bohjalian: bo-jail-yen (first syllable pronounced like to tie a bow)
Chris Bohjalian and his wife decided to leave New York City in 1986 for
"pastoral" Vermont after a wild and terrifying 45-minute cab ride that
ultimately dropped them at a crack house being stormed by police.
Fans of Mr. Bohjalian are probably very pleased that he did not take the advice given him in college by the writer-in-residence when he applied for a writing seminar. After reading the short story required for admittance, the writer/instructor "slid my short story across the expanse of the desk as if it were a piece of profoundly disagreeable road kill. 'I have three words for you, she said. Be a banker'."
Instead he had the courage to follow his dream and take his own advice which he now doles out to new writers wanting to be discovered. "Have a thick skin. Read lots and write often about things that interest you passionately. The key is to care so deeply about a subject that you are willing to give up a year or two of your life to it."
Bohjalian's love affair with reading began at age 13 as the result of two simultaneous events. His family moved from New York to Florida and a visit to the orthodontist which resulted in his wearing a piece of headgear "that looked like the business end of a backhoe". He couldn't speak when wearing it and refused to wear it to school. With no opportunity to make after-school friends, books became his best friends during that impressionable time period in his life, adolescence.
He is the author of fifteen books, including the other New York Times bestsellers, The Night Strangers, Secrets of Eden, Skeletons at the Feast, The Double Bind, Before Your Know Kindness, and Midwives.
Chris's awards include the New England Society Book Award in 2012 (for The Night Strangers), the New England Book Award in 2002, and the Anahid Literary Award in 2000. His novel, Midwives, was a number one New York Times bestseller, a selection of Oprah's Book Club, a Publisher's Weekly "Best Book," and a New England Booksellers Association Discovery pick. His work had been translated into over 25 languages and three times become movies (Secrets of Eden, Midwives, and Past the Bleachers).
He has written for a wide variety of magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Reader's Digest, and the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, and has been a columnist for Gannett's Burlington Free Press since 1992. Chris graduated from Amherst College, and lives in Vermont with his wife and daughter.
About This Biography
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For additional interviews with Chris Bohjalian, please see the reading guides for Midwives and Skeletons at the Feast
The story behind the story: The kernel that led to the novel, The Sandcastle Girls
Sometimes my novels have positively elephantine gestation periods - and even that, in some cases, is an underestimate. A mother elephant carries her young for not quite two years; I have spent, in some cases, not quite two decades contemplating the tiniest seed of a story and wondering how it might grow into a novel.
Moreover, in the quarter-century I've been writing books, I've realized two things about a lengthy gestation period. First, the longer I spend allowing an idea to take root inside me, the better the finished book; second, the more time I spend thinking about a book, the less time I spend actually writing it. Here's a confession: The first draft of the novel for which I may always be known best, Midwives, took a mere (and eerily appropriate) nine months to write. Skeletons at the Feast, another book I will always be proud of, took only 10. But I spent a long time pondering both of these novels before ever setting a single word down on paper.
Perhaps in no case has the relationship between ...
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