‘Labyrinth walker’ and award winning author of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, Kim Edwards talks with PopMatters 20 Questions about allowing oneself to head out into uncertain territory—be it in the middle of a lake or the middle of a story—and see where the journey takes you. Her latest, The Lake of Dreams published in January.
1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides left me both moved and, at times, laughing out loud in delight.
The Lake of Dreams
(Penguin; US: Jan 2011)
The Memory Keeper's Daughter
(Penguin; US: May 2006)
2. The fictional character most like you?
Jo March in Little Women, because she’s passionate about life and about writing, and something of an anomaly in her family.
3. The greatest album, ever?
Anything by U2.
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Beam me up!
5. Your ideal brain food?
Labyrinth walking. I love this ancient replica of a pilgrimage, the shedding of concerns on the way in, the deep sense of calm and contemplation in the center, and the feeling of wholeness and things coming together on the way out.
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
I swam across Skaneateles Lake, about a mile, when I was 11-years-old. I remember feeling when I was in the middle of the lake that I would be there forever, and having no idea where on shore I’d end up. I made it, and I’m proud of the determination and persistence that took.
It’s also a great metaphor for writing, it turns out, that sense of being in the middle of a story and not having any idea where it ultimately leads. It takes the same sort of persistence to reach the end.
7. You want to be remembered for ...?
In writing, I want to be remembered for telling good stories in beautiful and powerful language, using the poetry of words to reflect the thematic concerns of compelling stories. In life, I want to be remembered for kindness, of which I think there is far too little in the world.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
Virginia Woolf. George Eliot. Ralph Waldo Emerson.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
Orlando. Or Middlemarch.
10. Your hidden talents…?
I play the oboe.
11.The best piece of advice you actually followed?
“If you want to be a writer, stop writing by hand and use a typewriter.” Frederick Busch told me that as an undergraduate. The typewriter was faster, and gave me some objective distance from the words on the page, so I could edit more easily. A couple of years later, when word processors became more common, my typing skills transferred easily to the computer and made editing so much easier.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
A 17’ foot canoe, purchased when I was 17 with money I’d earned working at a grocery store on nights and weekends. I still have it, and I love the freedom it gives me to explore bodies of water.
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?
Depends on the occasion. I like clothes that are elegant and comfortable.
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
Virginia Woolf. She was so exquisitely gifted in her use of language. I would love to speak with her.
15. Time travel: where, when and why?
Seneca Falls, July 1848, Women’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, New York. I’d love to hear the speakers, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who wrote and read the Declaration of Sentiments. I’d love to put my name on that declaration and to tell these women—none of whom would live to see women receive the right to vote in 1920—that their voices would prevail.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
Spa vacation, on the beach, with the sound of waves and a glass of wine.
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or…?
Greek yogurt and raspberries. Also, Earl Grey tea.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
Near a deep, cold lake. I love the Great Lakes, though they are vast, and the Finger Lakes.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
President Obama, thank you.
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
I have a book in my peripheral vision, which is to say that when the time comes to write again, I’ll know where to look.