The Questionnaire: Janet Fitch

July 10, 2012   •   By The Questionnaire

How do you get up in the morning?

Light sleeper.  I have a special alarm clock that wakes me to something that's almost white noise.   Otherwise I'm jangling for hours.


Do you succumb to nostalgia? 

I succumb to nostalgia for certain cultural moments for which I had the misfortune to have been born too late. I experience these nostalgias intensely, far moreso than anything I lived through. Thus, that nostalgia becomes a moment of its own which I inhabit as if it were memory.


Do you write long and cut, or short and backfill?

Like many novelists, I write long and then backfill. 


How do you feel about your Wikipedia entry?

Wish someone would take that f^%^ng picture off. It was hot that day at the Texas book fair, I'm shiny as a brass bedpost.


Lunch with any three people who ever lived; who do you invite?

Ah... Anais,  Henry, and Lawrence Durrell. They were great friends, it would be heaven itself.  At Nepenthe, Big Sur, on the terrace overlooking the ocean.


Best piece of advice you ever received?

Move towards pleasure, rather than away from pain.  


Disciplined or hot dog?

More like drowning dog. Swim, Fluffy!


Have you ever been defeated by a genre?

Screenplay. My screenplays were like 180 pages long, full of internals and landscape. 


Which classic author would you like to see kicked out of the pantheon?

Hahahaha.  Pass!


Are you okay with blood?

As long as its not where I can see it. 


Who is your imagined audience? Does it at all coincide with the real one?

Myself at say, 17. At my most intense and intellectually fired up and dying for experience, with endless time to read. Does it coincide with the real one? I believe it does.


What country would you want to be exiled in?



What’s your favorite negative emotion?

To inspire in others? Envy.  In myself, I'd usually go for sulky resentment and self-loathing.


Is your study neat, or, like John Muir’s, is your desk and floor covered in “lateral, medial, and terminal moraines”?

It starts off clean and ends up like the earthquake of '71.


What is your go-to shoe?



What's your poison?

Vodka. A la Russe. Straight, ice cold, with a bite of something salty, like herring or pickles.


What's your problem?

Hey, what's your  problem? 


What are you so afraid of?

The triumph of the picture over the word. 


How long can you go without putting paw to keyboard?

 Or pen to paper? Half a day, but I'd have to be pretty well occupied.


Do you require a high thread count?

Absolutely not.


Who reads you first?

My boyfriend, a comedy writer, he makes it feel real. Then my longtime literary comrades David Francis and Rita Williams give me a proper pummelling. 


Sexy and dangerous, or brilliant and kind?

Sexy and kind.


What character or story haunts you?

Quentin in the Sound and the Fury.  I also always want to save Anna Karenina. And slap Emma Bovary.


Does plot matter?

Only if you want your readers to read your book all the way through.


Does age matter? 

Mine? Or yours?   Lucky I'm not a dancer. Or a ho.


Do you prefer to write standing, or must you lie prone in a field of dandelions with a steno pad and a good pen? Or what?

It's absences I cherish--no ringing phone, no barking dogs, no high-test leaf blowers droning away. No one needing anything from me, talking to me, nothing else I'm supposed to be doing, no future engagements, no clock. No insanity, mine or others'. Just give me a table, a shelf of books, a door that closes, a working laptop. Coffee. Feed occasionally. . 


Who is the author you'd most like to impersonate online?



Is there a literary community?

It's more like interlocking directorates, variously nucleated around event venues, summer conferences, universities and publications.