In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing
victim author and they choose their own interview by handpicking which questions (and how many!) they want to answer. Rebecca Walker is the author of Adé, a novel about a woman falling in love with a young Swahili man as she grapples with love and identity on her sojourn through Africa. Here is what Rebecca had to say about reading, writing, and her writer’s OCD.
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?
I’m Rebecca Walker and I write books. I grew up in a family of writers and readers, and apparently my first word was Book. My first volume didn’t come until many years later however—a memoir called Black, White and Jewish about growing up multiracial before it was cool. I have always been drawn to memoir and personal essay—it’s the kind of writing that helps me to remember, reflect and record—but my new book is a novel and I’m thrilled to be on the precipice of an entirely different process. I feel liberated from the pressures of “truth.”
I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you through the writing process?
I have writer’s OCD, which means my house is cleanest before a deadline. A clean house gives me tremendous peace of mind and a sense of accomplishment. I convince myself that even if I don’t get any good writing done, at least my house is clean! I also light candles and procrastinate by window shopping online. I also try, as much as possible, to make sure there is a paycheck involved.
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?
This book is an ode, a love letter, to a man I once loved very, very much. Even though it’s fiction, it’s very true to the nature and quality of our relationship. I felt compelled to write Adé because as I get older I realize how very, very rare and powerful these kinds of experiences are, and how necessary it is to honor them before it’s too late. Writing this book did change me. I grew as a writer, for sure. And in going back to this particular time in my life, I opened a part of my heart that I had closed so long ago. Very cathartic.
If you could have everyone read five books, which ones would they be?
Tough one! Well, this book lives in the context of and was influenced by some of the great love stories: Giovanni’s Room, by James Baldwin; The Lover, by Marguerite Duras; and my favorite collection of love poems, The Captain’s Verses, by Pablo Neruda. It also shares DNA with Tokyo Fiancee by Amelie Nothomb, and Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. All five of these are excellent reads about love and danger.
Where do you most love to write? Are there places where it comes to you easier than others?
I used to create idyllic writing spaces—I thought I needed them to write. You know, the perfect light exposures, the lovely desk, all the right colors and textures around; then I had a child and all of that went out the window. Basically now I have to write whenever, wherever, however. If I had to choose one place, though, it would definitely be my bed. Oh! And MacDowell, the best artist colony in the world. The last time I was there, I felt I could write a book in a week.
I’m currently at work on the screenplay for the new book—it’s been optioned for the big screen, which is thrilling. I am also developing a few television projects—also thrilling. A new novel is brewing, though. I’m not sure what it is exactly, but it’s coming. And, hello there, can you hear me? I’m ready to catch you—whenever, wherever, however!