Small talk: Dave Eggers

Dave Eggers’ first and most celebrated book, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000), is an emotionally charged memoir of the author’s struggle to bring up his younger brother after their parents die. It was shortlisted for a Pulitzer Prize. Another non-fiction work, Zeitoun (2009), follows a Syrian-American who decides to ride out hurricane Katrina in his New Orleans home, while Eggers’ novels include his debut You Shall Know Our Velocity (2002). Born in Boston, US, in 1970, Eggers is founder of the independent publishing house McSweeney’s. He is married to the writer Vendela Vida. They live in San Francisco with their two children.

Who is your perfect reader?

I like them to be well-groomed with good posture. Maybe wearing a cravat. A monocle is a nice touch.

What books are currently on your bedside table?

I don’t have a bedside table. The book I’m dropping on the floor at night is The Razor’s Edge by W Somerset Maugham.

Do you have a writing routine?

I need about eight hours of stalling to get one hour of actual writing done. So more than anything, rather than a routine, I need a lot of time.

What snack keeps you going while you’re writing?

Almonds and liquorice.

Where do you write best?

In my office in the backyard, on a couch, with my feet up and the laptop burning my thighs.

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

For Zeitoun, I needed to see the inside of the prison where Abdulrahman Zeitoun was held, so I posed as a prison educator to get a tour. I felt bad about fibbing, but it was the only way to get in.

When do you feel most free?

While swimming in the ocean.

What are you scared of?

Water snakes.

What is the best piece of advice a parent gave you?

In high school, whenever my dad met anyone I was dating, he would say, “Don’t f*** it up”. He couldn’t believe someone would want to date me. I think those four words are helpful for any situation.

What book do you wish you’d written?

Herzog by Saul Bellow.

Can you remember the first novel you read?

The first real novel I read on my own was probably Dune, the sci-fi novel by Frank Herbert. It absolutely blew my mind.

Dave Eggers’ latest novel is ‘The Wild Things’ (Penguin)

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