Small Talk: Amy Waldman

Amy Waldman was born in Los Angeles in 1969. After graduating from Yale University she worked as a journalist, notably with the New York Times. Her 2011 debut novel The Submission – about 9/11’s effect on the US psyche – won several awards. Waldman is working on a novel about US involvement in Afghanistan. She lives in Brooklyn.

Who is your perfect reader?

Myself. I think you write the book you want to read.

What is the last thing you read that made you laugh out loud?

Children in Reindeer Woods by the Icelandic writer Kristin Omarsdottir. It is extremely dark and bizarrely funny.

What books are currently on your bedside table?

The Hunger Angel by Herta Müller, and Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan by Rajiv Chandrasekaran.

What book changed your life?

Watership Down. It hooked me on reading and, eventually, writing.

When did you know you were going to be a writer?

From the age of nine I knew writing was important to me, but in terms of being a writer in the world, it was when I found an agent for my novel.

Do you have a daily writing routine?

I don’t, but I’m trying to get one.

What is the strangest thing you’ve done when researching a book?

While researching The Submission I went to a protest against the Ground Zero mosque in New York when I was about to give birth to twins. It was about 100 degrees. People thought I was very dedicated.

What music helps you write?

With The Submission it was “Runaway” by Kanye West. It created a neural pathway that connected with writing.

What do you snack on while writing?


Who are your literary influences?

I would like to say Dostoyevsky, but I can’t say I didn’t read VC Andrews [author of Flowers in the Attic] when I was growing up. I’ve been influenced by everything I’ve read.

Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with?

Someone that would make me laugh. [US novelist] Sam Lipsyte, or my husband.

What are you scared of?

Death. Failure. Anything happening to my children.

What keeps you awake at night?

Those three things.

When do you feel most free?

When I’m by myself on an airplane. There’s a sense of floating above everything.

When did you last cry?

At 5.30 this morning. My parents are ageing and there are difficult issues. It’s strange to have children at the beginning of life and parents nearing the end.

What would you go back and change?

I wasted years worrying about what other people thought.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

The beach in California where I grew up. It’s a primal part of me.

What does it mean to be a writer?

Freedom, great fortune and a responsibility to be a constructive force in the world.

Amy Waldman is author of ‘The Submission’ (Windmill)

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