In July 2019, the reddit community r/books selected the acclaimed novel There There as their book of the month. Tommy Orange joined the group for an AMA (Ask Me Anything), answering an array of questions covering everything from his book to his writing process to his favorite flavors of ice cream. Read a selection of questions below.
In There There you told some perspectives in the third person but you also included first person and second person. Do you approach writing those different points of view differently?
Also, what kind of books do you like reading? Anything in particular you would like to recommend to us?
Yes I approach any POV differently, I like how it can reveal different aspects of the characters’ reality. I’m constantly reading too much at once, and then can never think of the books when asked. Off the top of my head I’d say read Ocean Vuong’s new novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, or his poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds. Also Samanta Schweblin’s Mouthful of Birds. Anything by Valeria Luiselli. Read Terese Mailhot’s Heart Berries. Everything You Know About Indians is Wrong by Paul Chaat Smith. Anything by the poet Mary Ruefle. Anything by Clarice Lispector. Roberto Bolano. Denis Johnson.
What do you think is the most fun part of your writing process? Do you have any reading or writing related guilty pleasures?
Most fun is writing first drafts, when anything feels possible. Least fun is reading those first drafts after thinking they were the best thing you’ve written yet only to find them to be mostly complete garbage.
My weirdest habit is writing on the ground in my son’s bedroom surrounded by his toys. I write lying down prone. It’s very bad for my back and elbows. I don’t do it every time I write, but it’s often enough that it’s a thing. That would be my weirdest writing habit.
Was it difficult managing the large number of POV characters in There There? How did you keep track of everyone and flush them all out without wondering away from the plot?
Yes it was difficult to have a large cast and have it still feel like one world, like they all belonged together on the pages and as you progress like it could earn being considered a novel. Strangely when I tried to organize formally I became more messy so I figured a lot out in my head and that felt easier.
What is the very best dessert?
Currently there’s an ice cream flavor at an ice creamery called: Icey Cream, the flavor is Cookie Monster, and it’s like cookie dough ice cream is blue like the Cookie Monster the flavor is like nothing else I’ve ever tasted.
Learn more about There There by following the link below: