Listen to this article
Jess Walter was born in Spokane, Washington, in 1965. He studied journalism at Eastern Washington University, and began work at a local paper at the age of 19. Walter is the author of six novels; his 2012 hit Beautiful Ruins was a New York Times bestseller. He lives in Spokane with his family.
What is the last thing you read that made you laugh out loud?
When Tom Sharpe died, I reread Wilt. The story “The School” by Donald Barthelme always breaks me up.
Which book changed your life?
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez.
When did you know you were going to be a writer?
I suspected it when I was eight or nine but I held out hope for being a professional athlete until I was 16 or so.
What is your daily writing routine?
Up by 5.30am, have big coffee and big cookie, work until 9.30am or 10am, exercise, have second breakfast, answer emails and spend the rest of the day self-loathing.
What is the strangest thing you’ve done when researching a book?
I once hid in a parking garage to watch two Mafia witnesses have a meeting.
Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with?
A slow-roasting pig.
When do you feel most free?
When I’m playing basketball.
What would you change about yourself?
I would become terrifically organised. Or even a tiny bit organised.
What are you scared of?
What keeps you awake at night?
When were you happiest?
March 15, 1998, 11am.
How do you relax?
Martini, front porch of house, early evening, book.
What is the best piece of advice a parent gave you?
When I was a kid my dad told me to take a picture of every car I’d ever own.
Who would you choose to play you in a film about your life?
Wishfully: 1968 Paul Newman. Realistically: 1968 Norman Fell.
Do you keep a diary?
I keep a writing journal but it’s boring because it’s basically free of news and gossip.
Which book do you wish you’d written?
What are you most proud of writing?
The Zero and We Live in Water.
How would you earn your living if you had to give up writing?
One of my last jobs before writing full-time was bartending: I was terrific at it.
Where is your favourite place?
Can you remember the first novel you read?
I read and reread Treasure Island as a kid.
What novel would you give a child to introduce them to literature?
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket.
What does it mean to be a writer?
Rilke said it best, to be a writer is to seek answers but “to live in the question”.
Jess Walter’s short story collection, ‘We Live in Water’, is published by Viking/Harper Perennial