Out of Twenty: Simon Van Booy, Author of The Illusion of Separateness, Answers Fifteen Questions

Credit: Ken Browar

In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing victim author and they choose their own interview

Credit: Ken Browar
Credit: Ken Browar

by picking which questions, and how many, they want to answer. Simon Van Booy’s new novel, The Illusion of Separateness is getting rave reviews from bloggers and critics alike. It was a June pick at Bloggers Recommend, and it’s out today in the UK. Here is what Simon had to say about reading, writing, and an buying dresses for one of his characters, Amelia.

Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?

My name is Simon Van Booy and stories give me a way to untie the emotional knots that inhibit my life. I write literary fiction about how random strangers are connected to one another. I was born in London, but raised in the mountains of Wales. I live in New York City now, where I often miss the fields and sheep of my youth. In fact, as I write this, someone outside is driving on the sidewalk.

I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as a means of escape and comfort, can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process?

I really need a couple of hours alone with no phones or internet before I can even sit down to work. I have separate myself a little from the world in order to inhabit it as a ghost, and write without judgment. I drink lots of tea, and I have a desk that when not being used to write on is covered with a white sheet. It’s almost like having a sacred space. I also drink out of a 1960s Dior tea cup and saucer, which is a nice contrast to my beloved IKEA desk.

Write the question you would most like to answer in an interview, and then answer it.

Is it true that in college you rode an enormous motorcycle with purple fire on the gas tank, had long hair and wore leather pants to class?

“In Youth, we are free”

People live in stories, we are surrounded by them. What was it about this the story that made it the one you had to tell at this time?  What impact did telling this story have on your life?  Did you find that it had changed you?

Any book connected to World War II changes both writer and reader. You won’t come out unscathed. But I don’t choose my stories, they choose me.

What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books and authors?  Has writing your own book changed the way that you read?

I’m reading: Henry V, Call me Zelda by Erika Robuck, Mrs. Dalloway, and about to start Pale Fire. I won’t allow myself to buy a book until I finish the one I’m reading….

Are you able to read when you’re writing and if so what books inspire you when you’re working your own book(s)?

I try to read poetry when I’m writing, and books that I don’t quite understand.

What was the most interesting thing that you found out while researching this book that you ultimately decided not to include?

An entire chapter about a man living in London who is connected to one of the characters, but whose life goes no further than the chapter.

The Illusion of SeparatenessIn the past I have visited a blog called Daily Routines and it’s all about the schedules of writers and creative people.  What does a typical day look like for you and how do you manage a busy schedule?

Everything depends on my daughter’s school schedule. If I’m really suffering and can’t find time to work, I start waking up at 3AM….three hours of silence in the middle of the night is wonderful–not only for vampires.

Did you know what you wanted the title of the book to be?  How involved were in choosing the name of the book?

The title is a quote from a Vietnamese Buddhist monk.

Do you ever look back at your early work? How do you feel your writing style or approach to writing has evolved since you first began?

Style evolves until you find your voice–then style becomes a variation on a theme.

What were your experiences with reading when you were growing up? Was there a pivotal moment in discovering literature when you knew that you wanted to be a writer?

I just always felt the inherent fertility of words.

How many works in progress do you have going at any one time? How do you know when one has potential and when one just needs to be scrapped?

Sadly, when something has to be scrapped, it has to be. I usually work on one fiction and one non-fiction project at a time…..

Are there other books you love or writers you admire that are from your local area?

so many!

Who was your favorite character to write, and why did you have an affinity for that character in particular?

Amelia….I love her and her life…I even bought a few dresses I thought she might like. They’re in my closet now next to the skeletons….

What’s next?

A very intense character study of two people.  And a small boat for fishing, as I’m just not catching anything off the beach.

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