Indies First Q&A with Edward Carey

Last year, bestselling author Sherman Alexie issued a call to arms to authors nationwide: show your support of your local independent bookstore by volunteering to work! And thus was born Indies First, happening for the second consecutive year on Small Business Saturday, November 29.

This Saturday, Austin authors Edward Carey, Mark Pryor & Meg Gardiner are putting on a BookPeople lanyard and testing their bookselling savvy right here on our sales floor. Come by and find out which books our author friends recommend!

We tossed a few quick questions at our authors to get us started. Here are answers from Edward Carey, author of the Iremonger Trilogy. Ask him for recommendations in our BookKids section at 12pm today!

What’s the first book you remember reading?

I can’t so much remember my earliest childhood books, certainly there was some Beatrix Potter there and some A. A. Milne and Richard Scarry, oh and the amazing Orlando the Marmalade Cat books by Kathleen Hale – still amongst my favourite illustrations, ever. But the first books I became obsessed with were the Asterix books. These energetic comic book adventures set in a single village in France which defies the Roman occupation of Julius Caesar, are full of extraordinary characters, wit and skewed history. Just a couple of examples: the fishmonger in the village is called Unhygienix and his wife is called Bacteria; the oldest man in the village is called Geriatrix, and his young and beautiful wife is called Myopia; there’s a Roman Centurian called Odius Asparagus, and the Roman camps that surround the village are called Aquarium, Compendium, Laudanum and Totorum (tot of rum). Genius.

What are you currently reading?

Vango by Timothee de Fombelle (Ages 12 and up). It’s an absolutely extraordinarily riveting adventure story about an orphan who is very good (among other things) at climbing the outside walls of cathedrals (in the first chapter he does this to Notre Dame in Paris). It’s set in the last horrible months before the outbreak of World War II and features a claustrophobic girl who lives on the Paris roof tops, a young Scottish heiress, Russian spies, zeppelins, Nazis, secret islands, disguise artists and assassins. It’s incredibly well written, funny, moving, just extraordinary. I don’t want it ever to end. Can’t recommend it enough.

What book do you love and wish more people would pick up?

I think my favourite book (excluding Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, which has no problem getting readers) is probably The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz. I read it about once a year. Schulz only published two books of short stories before his death (a Jew, he was murdered by the Nazis), and they are the most delicate, beautiful strange stories I have ever come across. He creates an utterly magical world from a small unimportant Polish town and the results are heartbreaking and jaw dropping, no other sentences in literature are quite like Schulz’s. He was an extraordinary miniaturist. The two books are mostly about the young narrator’s father and coming to terms with his death, the father keeps dying throughout the books and keeps coming back metamorphosising into (among other things) an old fur coat, a stuffed condor, a crab covered in aspic. Each time I return to Schulz’s writing I find so much I never saw before, as if the books themselves keep changing. He was also a wonderful artist, and illustrated his books.

Where is your favorite place to read?

Anywhere and everywhere, but perhaps most of all in the bathtub.

Top five favorite authors. Go.

(Apart from Bruno Schulz and Charles Dickens who I’ve already mentioned, is that cheating?)
Carson McCullers
Hans Christian Andersen (especially when he’s translated by Tiina Nunnally)
Shirley Jackson
Angela Carter
Mervyn Peake

When you walk into a bookstore, which section do you head to first?

Adult Fiction or Children’s Fiction, one or the other. Or the New Releases shelves.

As an author, why do you support independent bookstores?

Because without an independent bookstore a city has lost its soul, and I wouldn’t want to live there.

Edward Carey is the author and illustrator of two novels for adults, Observatory Mansions and Alva and Irva, which was longlisted for the IMPAC Literary Award. The Iremonger Trilogy is his first work for young readers. Born in England, he now lives with his wife, Elizabeth McCracken, and their two children in Austin, Texas, where he wrote the Iremonger Trilogy because he missed feeling cold and gloomy.

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