Born in Paris, Lily Tuck is the author of three previous novels: Interviewing Matisse or the Woman Who Died Standing Up, The Woman Who Walked on Water, and Siam, or the Woman Who Shot a Man, which was nominated for the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, and are collected in Limbo, or Other Places I Have Lived. She divides her time between Maine and New York City.
Author biography courtesy of HarperCollins.
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Some outtakes from our interview with Tuck:
"English is actually my third language. I was born in France and thus first spoke French, next I lived in South America and learned Spanish. I came to the United States when I was ten years old and I claim (probably not quite true) that I did not open my mouth once in school for the whole of the first year -- or until I could speak English without an accent -- as I did not want my classmates to tease or make fun of me."
"I spend most summers in a house on a beautiful little island in Maine where I have to go everywhere by boat, to the store or to the post office, and although some days can be very solitary, I like the challenge and the self-sufficiency island life requires."
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In the fall of 2004, Lily Tuck took some time out to answer some of our questions.
What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a writer?
All the novels of Joan Didion. Her distinctive style and voice taught me how it is possible to capture an entire world with a single phrase as well as how to combine political acts with private ones.
What are your ten favorite books?
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
The Sailor who fell from Grace by Yukio Mishima
Democracy by Joan Didion
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald
A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel
The Names by Don DeLillo
The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard
Kalimantaan by C. S. Godshalk
What are some of your favorite films, and what makes them unforgettable to you?
Most of my favorite films are foreign, like for instance Blue, Red and White, directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski -- where the action is not plot driven, and where there is always a sense of life's mystery.
What types of music do you like? Is there any particular kind you like to listen to when you're writing?
I go through different phases -- at the moment, I like "fado." I don't listen to music while I write.
If you had a book club, what would it be reading -- and why?
I would be reading a book that I am ashamed to say I have never read, like Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace.
What are your favorite kinds of books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
Books that are slightly out of the ordinary and that the person I am giving them to might not know about.
Do you have any special writing rituals? For example, what do you have on your desk when you're writing?
No special rituals; but I try to write every day, otherwise I feel the way I do if I have not brushed my teeth in the morning.
Many writers are hardly "overnight success" stories. How long did it take for you to get where you are today? Any rejection-slip horror stories or inspirational anecdotes?
It took a long time for my work to be published. Luckily, I am stubborn -- and luckily, I have a very loving and supportive family.
If you could choose one new writer to be "discovered," who would it be?
I think I would try to choose someone whose life has been disadvantaged or difficult as I think writing helps one come to terms with problems and hardships.
What tips or advice do you have for writers still looking to be discovered?
To keep writing.
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