Lea Carpenter is a Contributing Editor at Esquire and has written the screenplay for Mile 22, a film about CIA’s Special Activities Division, directed by Peter Berg and starring Mark Wahlberg and John Malkovich. She is developing her first novel, Eleven Days, for television and her new novel, Red, White, Blue, is out this fall.
On November 13, she will be speaking at House of SpeakEasy’s Seriously Entertaining show, Divided We Stand, alongside Kwame Anthony Appiah, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, and Jelani Cobb. We spoke to Lea ahead of the show.
What is your earliest memory involving reading or writing?
Visiting book shops, or the library, with my mother as a girl. She always gave me as much time as I wanted to make a choice and the joy of those choices is memorable.
What is your favorite line from your current work?
“Espionage is not a math problem.”
What is your favorite first line of a novel?
“What makes Iago evil?” (Joan Didion, Play It As It Lays)
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Look inward. Success is a mirage.
What writer past or present do you wish you could eat dinner with?
Elliot Ackerman. If he’s busy then Cormac McCarthy, Christopher Nolan, Tom Stoppard, Kendrick Lamar, Tony Kushner, Jane Austen, Didion, Trollope, there are just so many.
What writer do you wish you could share with the world?
Ned Carpenter, my father, he wrote beautifully but privately.
What are you reading right now?
A Spy of the First Person, by Sam Shepherd.
What fictional character do you most closely identify with?
My own heroines, I think, Sara (Eleven Days) and Anna (Red, White, Blue).
If you could live inside a fictional world, which one would you choose?
Probably Henry V. I mean, if I get to be Catherine of Valois.
Are there any quotes you use to inspire you?
I’ve always loved Forster’s “only connect.”