Leah Stewart on Jane Austen, the word ‘ardent’ & making herself cry

Leah Stewart stops by the store this Saturday, April 7 at 6 p.m. to discuss her new novel, What You Don’t Know About Charlie Outlaw. Put simply, it’s about a famous actor who gets kidnapped on a hiking excursion. Check out Stewart’s answers to The BookPeople Questionnaire below! 


leah stewart

BP: What are you reading these days?

LS: I just started The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer. In the last month I’ve read Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge, Tin Man by Sarah Winman, and Go Ask Fannie by Elisabeth Hyde.

BP: What books did you love as a child?

LS: The Wrinkle in Time series. I actually just recalled that I own a signed copy of Wrinkle in Time, inscribed to me. Frustratingly I have no memory of how or when I acquired it. Maybe I saw Madeleine L’Engle in person and somehow forgot, which seems unbelievable. I also loved The Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper. As a teenager I got very into the classics, reading Austen and almost all of Dickens’ novels in order of their publication, for example. But I still had the fantasy interest going as well — I loved Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern.

BP: What’s the hardest thing about writing?

LS: Getting it right.

BP: What’s the best thing about writing?

LS: Becoming so immersed in the work that (for brief periods) you’re living fully in the imagined reality.

BP: What’s your favorite word?

LS: Ardent.

BP: What’s a sentence you’ve loved and remembered from a book?

LS: “I see. I thought it was something else,” from Denis Johnson’s “Emergency” in Jesus’ Son. That will make no sense unless you’ve read the story. Another that popped into my head: “I would by no means suspend any pleasure of yours,” which is something that Mr. Darcy says to Elizabeth in Pride & Prejudice.

BP: Do you have any weird writing habits?

LS: I may regret confessing this, but sometimes before I write an emotional scene I watch something I know will make me cry.

BP: Who are your literary influences?

LS: This could be a very long list, but let’s start with Jane Austen, George Eliot and Margaret Atwood.

BP: What’s your favorite place to write?

LS: I love my study on the third floor of my house. Besides that, I’ve loved going to Sewanee, Tennessee, to write, though sadly the colony I went to has now closed.

BP: What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?

LS: I really have no idea. I draw a blank when I consider this question. Good thing it worked out!

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