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Answers to Interview Questions about The Unfinished World,

Taken from Yelp Reviews of Famous Museums around the World

 

Why should people read your book?

“It’s pretty interesting and is not a long-winded affair…Many people enjoy lunch here and it’s open to the public. Truly amazing and massive collection of mammals, historic artifacts, dinosaurs, etc… Dedicated to both ecclesiastical and secular topics.”

 

How long did it take you to write the book?

“After I got my ticket, I didn’t waste much time, started to explore. I could have spent weeks here. But I got it done in a day, though we rushed through a lot of it.”

51IKDORqGrL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Curiosity #84: Aztec volcanic rock sculpture, circa fifteenth century A.D., probably made for the temple of Tenochtitlan. An example of a traditional demon princess, or Cihuateteo, who escorts the sun from the underworld each morning, she wears a simple skirt, breasts bared, hair long and over her shoulders.

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The truth about Set is the truth about all ghosts: there is a weightlessness that keeps them fluttering, light as leaves—and in turn they are drawn down to instability, to the volatile, to cracks that open and can split whole mountains. To the volcanoes. Specifically, in Set’s case, to Lana Volcana.

That wasn’t her real name, of course, or even her screen name. But it was what they all called her after her breakout picture, Vera and the Volcano—a two-reeler about an island girl that sent her star up and up. LANA VOLCANA! the picture magazines screeched, with accompanying photographs of a dark-haired vamp in a grass skirt and clamshell top. The IT GIRL, the papers called her, a new kind of girl for these daring times. Filmstar Rag said she was the girl you don’t bring home to mama.

Rachel Cantor - high-res - photo credit Bennett BeckensteinWhat’s your book about?

It’s about Shira, a translator who doesn’t translate because she doesn’t quite believe that it’s possible to bring words from one language to another. Instead, she temps as a filing clerk and dogsbody, usually in the boroughs. When she gets a call from Romei, a Nobel Prize-winning poet who asks her to translate his latest work, she’s stunned. He offers a plausible explanation for his choice, she agrees, and ecstatically envisions new life for herself and seven-year-old daughter Andi. But as Romei begins faxing her sections of his work, we, and eventually she, begin to realize that Romei has another agenda, one that involves Shira personally.

 

Sounds like you’ve kind of memorized that pitch.

I have, rather.

Good on Paper 300dpiPronto! Pronto! Hello!

A man with a Hollywood pizza-guy accent introduced himself.

It was Romei, or so he said in a passable imitation of Romei’s voice, known to me and everyone in America from his cameo on Seinfeld, where he played a poet who may or may not have stolen Jerry’s cigar (allowing Romei to say,Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar).

Do you know what time it is? I asked blearily, though in fact it was only seven.

You are Shira Greene, yes? The translator? This is Romei!

I swear he said it with a flourish.

Your joke isn’t funny, whoever you are. Go away, I said, and hung up the phone.

He called again.

ReeserHeadshot2016I was returning the sweater because it didn’t fit. I’d bought it yesterday, this tiny scrap of cobalt with flat silver buttons. It was called “The Sarah Cardigan,” and since that’s my name, I’d felt it made sense. In the boutique’s mirror, it had wrapped my arms like a hug. The buttons rested close to my frame, which was slight from a nervous summer of eating mostly toast and avocado and anticipating the move. But this morning, in our half-packed apartment, in the slanting light of the bathroom, it looked clingy, pathetic, too small. What was I, a teenager trying to show off my new little breasts? An insubstantial person, just following her boyfriend to a city with seasons? I was restless, spinning. Daniel had been out gathering abandoned boxes a few blocks away, so I’d just slipped into my car with the sweater and left.

DZ photoWhy this title: The Amado Women?

I thought it fairly well signaled that this would be a novel about the lives of women; their lives are complex and contradictory. Amado, Spanish for beloved, is the family surname. I love that wonderful undertone because all four main characters are beloved, they just may not realize it. Also, as a Zamorano I have gone through life at the tail end of the alphabet, and I wanted to shake things up a bit.

 

Not a lot of guys make the cut in this book. You got a thing against men?

Nope, not at all. I just wanted to make women’s lives the centerpiece.

Amado OrigOf all people, Mercy Amado (nació Fuerte) should know that happiness is a decision. You simply cast aside that which you are tired of looking at, weary of battling, unable to accept, and focus on that which remains. She had to have learned something during the span of her lifetime, with its marital therapy, grief counseling, past life-regression, born-again Christianity, flirtation with Buddhism, Judaism, Catholicism and atheism. Sixty years. When did you figure it all out? When did you understand the world? When did God take you by the hand and explain it all to you, elaborating that you were indeed His child—special, gifted, divine—and apologize for the mess along the way?

Jessica Chiarella_Photo Credit Shane CollinsSo, from the description, your book is about a group of people who get new bodies in order to cure terminal illnesses…

Yes, they’re in a pilot program called SUBlife that transfers their memories into cloned versions of their old bodies. They wake up with a body that’s theirs, it just doesn’t have any of the environmental damage their old bodies had. No scars, no wrinkles, no tattoos, none of the little traits that they’re used to in their daily lives. And the impact of that loss turns out to be rather severe.

 

You mean, this turns out not to be a good thing?

It’s a very good thing, because it does save their lives. Everything works the way it’s supposed to, medically speaking. They’re completely cured. Except the emotional impact of losing so much of their physical identities begins to weigh on the members of the pilot program when they try to renter their old lives. So it’s not the miracle that it seems to be.

9781501116100Hannah

It is certainly strange, to live the first few weeks in my new body. Perhaps the strangest part is how inconsequential the change feels sometimes. Not dying, no longer being in pain, these differences are so startling and so complete that it’s easy to forget that I was ever sick to begin with. There is no scarring, no residual damage, no daily reminder of the months I spent being mutilated by tubes and wires and needles. I have a full, thick head of hair. And I’m no longer as frail as I was in the beginning; slender stretches of muscle begin to form under the skin of my arms and legs. I look like I’m closer to running a marathon than dying of anything.

There are other things, too. Little things. My hearing is pin sharp, instead of muted by my years of rock concerts and riding on Jake Mariano’s motorcycle as a teenager and the clattering din of taking the Red Line. The little aches and pains I used to carry with me—waking up with a stiff neck, cracking the ankle I sprained playing soccer as a kid, the enduring tightness in my hips and the backs of my thighs from painting for hours on end—are gone. They are removed so thoroughly that I can’t remember exactly what they felt like. Any and all excess fat has been spirited from under my skin, leaving a thin, supple sort of body it its wake. The dimpling in my thighs and the small crevices of stretch marks in my sides, the handful of scars I’d amassed in my twenty-seven years, all have been replaced by tight, flat skin. It’s a body so perfect it is difficult to inhabit sometimes, because it’s difficult to imagine it’s really mine.

Charles Lambert 01_21a Patrizia CasamirraI’ve heard you say that, unlike Socrates, you prefer the unexamined life. So how does this feel?

Opportunistic. Uncomfortable. But I’ll do my best. Just don’t get too personal.

 

Hmm. Aren’t you a little old to be publishing a debut novel?

I thought you were supposed to be on my side. Do we really need to be talking about this? In any case, it isn’t really a debut, just a US debut. I’ve published three novels, short stories and a quirky memoir in that small island over to the right of the United States. You know, the one with the Queen and all those green and rolling hills.

 

Is that where your novel is set?

Next question.

the children's home3.inddThe children began to arrive soon after Engel came to the house. It was Engel who found the first one, an infant girl, in a basket, with a bundle of neatly folded, freshly washed clothes. The basket had been left on the steps leading up from the kitchen into the garden. Whoever had put it there must have known the way the house worked, because days might have passed before any of the other doors were opened; left anywhere else, the child would probably have died. As it was, no more than an hour or two had gone by but already the creature was blue with cold. Engel picked her up and held her, the small soft body pressed to her bosom, the small wrinkled face in the warm crook of her neck, for she didn’t know how long; a living daylight was how she described it to Morgan when she brought the baby up to him in his study. Looking across from his reading with amusement, Morgan explained that the living daylights were always plural and that they were supposed to be the part of the human soul most susceptible to fear. She nodded, fervently, that’s exactly right, it just goes on and on. That’s exactly how it was, she said, with the child’s small heart barely beating and the breath like a short hot knife blade on the skin of Engel’s neck. Engel lifted the baby away from her body and held her out to Morgan, who shook his head. She said they should tell someone perhaps, someone would know what to do with her, but Morgan disagreed. Left to himself he might have been tempted, what use did he have for a child, after all? But he could hear that Engel’s heart wasn’t in it. Just look at you both, he said. What could be better than this? Don’t you know how to deal with her as well as anyone? Let her stay here with us, where she will be clothed and fed, and kept out of this wicked weather. At least for a while. Perhaps, he thought, the child’s presence would encourage Engel not to go.

61OEvAy5j0L._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_One of my favorite lines in the thorough, inspiring, and often challenging new anthology Family Resemblance: An Anthology and Exploration of 8 Hybrid Literary Genres, appears not in any of the myriad prose poems or lyric essays or flash fiction included there, but in the preface. The sentence begins: “Jacqueline had been experiencing a…crisis of genre faith.” So much about this anthology – its writers, its editors, and presumably its target audience – is contained in that phrase, “a crisis of genre faith.” This is a book for those of us that pray at the altar of literature, and as such, both study its many holy tenets, and occasionally (or frequently) question their holiness, prompting us to seek new, expanded ways of renewing our commitment to The Word.

WT-purpleIt’s explained nicely in the blurb, by the way, but could you give us a quick premise/sum-up of your book, Over For Rockwell?

Okoye is pretty much a regular guy in his second year of college, which to him feels like a dead end. He wants to draw comics and he feels trapped doing the liberal arts thing. He’s also developed some romantic ideas about Hong Kong, based on movies and descriptions from a Chinese pal. So he drops out of school, goes on a whim, and from there his life explodes, in terms of excitement. Not that he gets much drawing done . . .

51FkAVmIKtL._SX353_BO1,204,203,200_And I’m telling you, she was about to slip. She was gonna blurt everything, I could feel it. I was sitting just like I am now. You know, legs crossed at the ankle, not too much, medium smirk. I was drinking coffee, just watching her. I was holding back, that’s what I’m saying. And that’s the part that kills me. I know that bitch! She’s dying to tell me! She just can’t bring herself to spit it out! Actually that’s the part that excites me. I can admit it. Like everywhere else, the women here are inveterate liars. But here it’s like they won’t let up! No matter what, the charade must go on!

Petur HKThe sun is setting, and I’m hungry and horny, and Girl knows it. She can always tell when I’m salivating.

We met at a bus stop in Chile back when I had first stopped shaving and she had just begun and the ground beneath our feet was just some place at the edge of the world. Later, it turned out we’d taken the same flight there and told the customs agent the same tale of how we were traveling to find out if the stories we’d told about the Chilean wine we’d served to a thousand German and Norwegian guests who came to bathe in the wet Icelandic summers were true.