Friday, August 03, 2012

Author Interview with Karen Thompson Walker

1. The science behind the slowing and the events that follow in The Age of Miracles was really interesting, how did you come up with it? Did you decide on the story or the series of natural disasters first?

I got the idea from something that really happened. In 2004, the earthquake that caused the tsunami in Indonesia also affected the rotation of the earth, shortening our 24-hour days by a few microseconds. I began to wonder right away what would happen if a much larger change ever took place. From the beginning of the process, though, I also knew that I wanted to tell this story through the perspective of a woman looking back on her childhood and that the events in her life would be central to the novel. I wrote the book in chronological order, gradually and simultaneously charting the small-scale events in Julia’s life as well as the large-scale consequences of the global disaster.

2. As an editor as well as a writer, do you have to take yourself out of one mindset in order to do the other task? If so, how do you manage and what's the difference? Does being an editor give you any advantage as a writer, and vice versa? 

For me, the two things are intimately connected, and I do both at the same time. I like to edit as I write, sentence by sentence, rearranging the words again and again as I go.

3. What five books are you most excited about at the moment? They can be ones you've read recently, are reading, or are just really looking forward to.

The Buddha in the Attic by Julia Otsuka
The Girl Giant by Kristen den Hartog
The Life Boat by Charlotte Rogan
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

4. Where do you do your reading and writing?

I wrote almost all of The Age of Miracles at one desk in a little studio apartment in Brooklyn, in the mornings before work. I still do most of my writing at home, but now that I’ve left my full time job, I sometimes also write at nearby coffee shops, especially in the afternoons. As for reading, I read in all kinds of places, wherever I happen to be.

5. How did you feel when you found out about the bidding war and incredible support behind The Age of Miracles? Did you do anything to celebrate selling your first novel (and with such fanfare!)?

Shocked. (And elated, obviously.) I’m still a bit shocked, actually. I knew from working in book publishing how hard it is to sell a novel, so I was really bracing for disappointment. My husband and I went out to dinner to celebrate that first night, but we both had a hard time believing that it was real.

6.  Now that you've published your awesome debut novel, what's next?

I’m working on a new novel, but I feel too superstitious to say much about it. It’s about another extreme situation, though, and I’m exciting to settle into it.

Karen Thompson Walker is a graduate of UCLA and the Columbia MFA program. A former book editor, she wrote The Age of Miracles in the mornings before work. Born and raised in San Diego, California, she now lives in Brooklyn with her husband. 

Thanks so much to Karen for stopping by In The Next Room! To learn more about her incredible debut novel, The Age of Miracles, stop by the book's website, and Facebook pageClick here to read my review of The Age of Miracles at In The Next Room.


  1. I love how some authors are superstitious about saying anything pertaining to what they are working on. I went to a signing once and one of the authors was like that. I don't know I guess it's an interesting sort of tic to me.

    Great interview!


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