John Wray is the author of the critically acclaimed novels The Lost Time Accidents, Lowboy, The Right Hand of Sleep, Canaan’s Tongue, and most recently, Godsend. He was named one of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists in 2007. The recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship, he lives in Brooklyn and Mexico City.
On January 15, he will be speaking at House of SpeakEasy’s Seriously Entertaining show, Secrets and Lies, alongside Lauretta Charlton, Nora Krug, and Carl Zimmer. We spoke to John ahead of the show.
What is your earliest memory involving reading or writing?
My earliest memory involving reading was gawking in amazement at the tower of orange-spined Penguin classics on my mom’s bedside table. She immigrated to the US from Austria, and she taught herself English by reading Penguin Classics. Which is pretty badass, in my opinion.
What is your favorite line from your current work?
“Dear Teacher, here I am now, where you said I’d never be.”
What is your favorite first line of a novel?
“They threw me off the hay truck about noon.” (from The Postman Always Rings Twice, by James M. Cain)
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Don’t turn your nose up at porn! It’s a living!
What writer past or present do you wish you could eat dinner with?
I’d kind of like to eat dinner with my girlfriend. She’s a screenwriter. And she’s very busy.
What writer do you wish you could share with the world?
I was blown away by The Festival of Earthly Delights, by Matt Dojny. The funniest book I’ve read since I can read.
What are you reading right now?
Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground, by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Soderlind. (It’s research!)
What fictional character do you most closely identify with?
Mostly the ones that get killed in the first fifty pages. Not sure what that says about me.
If you could live inside a fictional world, which one would you choose?
Is this a judgment-free zone? It is? Then Middle Earth. That’s my most honest answer.
Are there any quotes you use to inspire you?
The one that comes to mind is more along the lines of a mantra—one I was given by one of my literary heroes (who shall, for obvious reasons remain nameless): Extrude the product!