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Off the Page

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Writers Talk About Beginnings, Endings, and Everything In Between

Edited by Carole Burns, introduction by Marie Arana.

As host of “Off the Page,” a literary chat program on Washingtonpost.com, Burns has interviewed more than 40 authors-from Pulitzer Prize winners Edward P. Jones and Richard Ford to newcomers Doreen Baingana and Hannah Tinti-and here she collects those Q&A moments “when I knew I was hearing something extraordinary,” including A.S. Byatt noting that she sees her writing in blocks of color and Martin Amis referring to himself as a “yob.” Burns organizes her bon mots into 16 highly readable chapters, each covering a different aspect of fiction writing: beginnings, characters, influences, language and style, novels vs. short stories, sex scenes, revision, fact vs. fiction, critics, muses and endings. Most authors speak eloquently, more like prose writing than casual conversation, with only an occasional dash of high-brow condescension. Readers will surely find familiar names among the 43 writers contributing, many of whom refer to their own best-loved works (though a dash of humility from the likes of Paul Auster-“I would never tell anyone to read my books”-is much appreciated). Author biographies, including each writer’s own favorite quote about writing, round out this treat for avid readers and writers. –Publishers Weekly

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