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Meet the WritersImage of Elisabeth Robinson
Elisabeth Robinson
Elisabeth Robinson is an independent producer and screenwriter whose film credits include the award-winning films Braveheart and Last Orders. This is her first novel. She lives in New York.

Author biography courtesy of Little, Brown & Co.

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In the summer of 2005, Elisabeth Robinson took some time out to answer a few of our questions:

What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a writer?
No single book did that. There are so many, in different ways, and at different ages. Mostly, though, the books I read again and again, as you'll see from the list below, are books that, rather than telling an unforgettable story, have a distinctive, unique voice that conveys a very specific feeling.

What are your ten favorite books, and what makes them special to you?

  • The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger -- I loved the voice and the mix of humor and melancholy.

  • Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow -- Its poetic precision in voice and imagery yet the book has a sweep of an epic novel.

  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain -- It's moving, funny, beautiful, and every time I read it feels like the first time.

  • The Man with the Golden Arm by Nelson Algren -- I like Algren's crunchy prose and tough morality.

  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov -- Nabokov is wickedly, shockingly brilliant, and funny -- and I love looking up all those words.

  • The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor – Sad and funny and noble characters and writing.

  • Complete Works of William Shakespeare Needs no explanation.

  • The Best of S. J. Perelman -- Almost any page gives me at least one laugh.

  • Poem a Day (Volume 1, the U.K. version) -- Because it has the greatest selection of old and new poetry I've found, and I like to read one poem (or part of a long one) every night before I go to sleep.

  • Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins -- I can open almost any page and be moved by a thought or image, time after time.

    What are some of your favorite films, and what makes them unforgettable to you?

  • A Fish Called Wanda -- It's smart, wacky, and weird -- a rare combination in film -- and John Cleese is hysterical.

  • The Godfather Part 2 -- It's just superb filmmaking in every way.

  • My Life as a Dog -- I love the little kid and the dog in outer space; it's touching.

  • The Misfits -- Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe and wild horses, written by Arthur Miller and directed by John Houston -- that's why.

  • Casablanca -- Who doesn't love it?

  • Top Hat or Swingtime -- Fred & Ginger movies are like great dreams; I love the music and dancing and fashion.

  • It's a Wonderful Life -- I cry every single time I watch it, which is every Christmas.

  • Days of Heaven -- I love the voice-over and the photography of the plains.

  • Best Intentions (the Bergman film) -- It's beautifully sad and honest.

  • Nights of Cabiria (and most Fellini films) -- Because at his best, his films are spirited, truthful, brutal, joyful and forgiving.

    What types of music do you like? Is there any particular kind you like to listen to when you're writing?
    I like all kinds of music. Like with books, what I listen to over and over again, over years, must be my favorites, though I'm always buying new artists. Last week, I bought Shelby Lynne's Identity Crisis. My old favorites include Glenn Gould, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, R. L. Burnside, Neil Young, Lucinda Williams, Fred Astaire, Chet Baker, and Rickie Lee Jones; newer favorites include Gillian Welch, Moby, and Nellie McKay.

    If you had a book club, what would it be reading?
    A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, because so many people have recommended it to me, and I'm intimidated by it.

    What are your favorite kinds of books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
    I give poetry, because people don't realize how accessible and interesting and moving it is, and I like to receive it because there's still so much I haven't read.

    Do you have any special writing rituals? For example, what do you have on your desk when you're writing?
    I work in the morning, so my only ritual is black coffee. On my desk is my laptop, a keyboard, and some paper for notes.

    What tips or advice do you have for writers still looking to be discovered?
    Be sure you love writing -- not just having written, not just the idea of "being" a writer. If you don't like doing the thing itself, don't, and find work you do enjoy. That doesn't mean writing isn't a struggle, but you better enjoy its particular kind of struggle. If you do, then never give up. And remember: "all glory begins in defeat."

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  • About the Writer
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    *The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters, 2005