A few months ago, I had an idea. What if I reached out to some of the most influential authors of our time, and asked for a few moments to answer some questions from a fledgeling magazine? Crazy, I know. Naturally, I sat on it for awhile. I sat on it for a variety of reasons: schedule, procrastination, etc. But really what it came down to was that I thought it’d be a waste of time. It’d be a waste of time because the two authors that came to mind were such big names that it was unlikely they would take the time to reply to my email, let alone answer my questions.
The first was Junot Diaz, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, This Is How You Lose Her, and Drown. All critically acclaimed novels, and bestsellers. If there was an author who reenergized my love for reading, it was Junot Diaz. He also helped me learn that it was ok to put a little more of myself in my writing.
The other was Stephen King, author of I-don’t-know-how-many horror novels, including IT, The Stand, The Gunslinger, and Salem’s Lot. The man who was responsible for my love for just about everything writing.
Now getting a hold of Stephen King was going to be almost impossible. He didn’t have a contact email, no fan club, and while his site did mention he sometimes read through his sites Message Board, I doubted it. I could read through his FAQ page and copy and paste some answers, but that was it. No go.
So I turned to Junot Diaz. Not my second choice, but more personal, so I was more hesitant to contact him. His novels were a perfect blend of the tragic and humorous, with characters and settings I could relate to. His lack of father figures, the struggles of everyday life, love, loss—it was all so perfectly written.
I was able to contact him via email. I wrote a long email giving him background info about Pantheon Magazine, what we do, and my hopes to possibly ask him a few questions. I also said a few things in regards to how much I’ve enjoyed his work. There was more, but if you can imagine the average One Direction fan club letter from a teenage girl, you get the gist. I felt like an idiot before, during, and after writing that email, but lo and behold, thirty minutes later, it was there. His name, in capital letters, in my inbox with a brief reply: a short interview? Of course. Pleas send questions. j
So here’s that short interview with, hopefully, many more to come.
5 Questions with Junot Diaz
PM: Who growing up was the biggest influence to you as far as your love for writing, and why?
JD: Probably my first librarian Mrs Crowell because she encouraged my love of books and that more or less created me as a writer. She was so generous and kind and enthusiastic. Never will forget her.
PM: Was there a specific character you created that you felt was, in a large part, a reflection of yourself?
JD: Well Yunior, who appears in all three of my novels is more or less my alter ego, though quite different than me.
PM: Where do you get your ideas, and where do you go or what do you do to deal with writer’s block?
JD: I just read. Books for me are almost always the answer.
PM: What’s the best advice that you ever received in your life that you’d want to pass on to others?
JD: Always work on being more compassionate. If it doesn’t save your life it will save someone else’s.
PM: Any writing projects you’re currently working on that people can look forward to?
JD: God, not really. Basically stuck on stupid right now.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and This Is How You Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist. He is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, PEN/Malamud Award, Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship, and PEN/O. Henry Award. A graduate of Rutgers College, Díaz is currently the fiction editor at Boston Review and the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.