Karen Joy Fowler at Powells

I’m a huge admirer of Karen Joy Fowler‘s writing. I’m also lucky enough to have been a student of hers at Clarion. So when I saw that Portland would be one of the stops on her tour for her amazing new book We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend a Friday evening.

Really, as Barbara Kingsolver says in the review linked above, it’s better to know as little as possible about the book before you read it. So instead of telling you about the book, I’ll tell you a few things she said during the Q&A.

I asked about research. “One of the great things about research is that you can persuade yourself that almost anything you want to do is research.” Here is an example of research:

Someone else complimented her on her nuanced and well-developed characters, and asked if she models them on real people. She explained that she had done this once and it went very badly, because all the sterling qualities she had included in the portrayal were outweighed by a single reference to the tendency of that person’s hair toward greasiness. Now, she said, “What I generally do when I’m starting a character is to start with a story someone else has told me about someone I do not know.”

Someone asked her thoughts on adaptations: book-to-movie, book-to-audiobook, etc. “I feel the author should be let to run rampant through whatever is next.”

We learned that she wrote her first book at age five, a collection of short stories with identical plots: a baby animal is separated from its parents, there is a tense middle, and then a happy ending where they are reunited.

I said I wouldn’t tell you about the book but I have to quote this paragraph:

Our parents, on the other hand, had shut their mouths and the rest of my childhood took place in that odd silence. They never reminisced about the time they had to drive halfway back to Indianapolis because I’d left Dexter Poindexter, my terry-cloth penguin (threadbare, ravaged by love — as who amongst us is not) in a gas station restroom, although they often talk about the time our friend Marjorie Weaver left her mother-in-law in the exact same place. Better story, I grant you.

As who amongst us is not.

I’m a little sleepy today, because when I got home from the event I read We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves straight through. Go thou and do likewise.