ArtsATL > Books > Q&A: The power of books impels Gabrielle Zevin’s “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry”

Q&A: The power of books impels Gabrielle Zevin’s “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry”

Gina Zevin
Gabrielle Zevin

Gabrielle Zevin’s New York Times best-selling novel The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry tells the tale of a curmudgeonly bookstore owner who finds transformation through novels and relationships. It is also a story about the ways reading and physical books can bind people together.

When A.J.’s young wife dies, his life starts to unravel. His bookstore, Island Books, is suffering sluggish sales, and then his treasured rare edition of Poe poems disappears. Distressed by his personal tragedy and the challenges facing his bookstore, A.J. struggles to find meaning. A special package delivered one night to the store soon reconnects A.J. with a purpose greater than his disappointments. As A.J. integrates the contents of the package into his life, he begins to create a path toward happiness. Told in vibrant prose, Fikry is a rumination on love and reading and the ways the two often go together.

Zevin wrote the screenplay for Conversations with Other Women and is an occasional contributor to NPR’s All Things Considered. In Fikry, though, her love of novels (this is her 11th) is on display.

Zevin will speak at 7 p.m. Feb 12 at the Margaret Mitchell House.

ArtsATL: You have written fiction for children and fiction for adults. Which do you like best?

Gabrielle Zevin: I don’t have a preference. As a reader, I think it’s kind of a gorgeous thing that we have books for every stage of life. And the writer in me feels the same way. The type of writing I like best is when I have found a story, a character and a narrative form that truly cohere. That can happen whether I’m writing for young people or adults.

fikryArtsATL: What was the inspiration for your protagonist?

Zevin: Oh, a variety of book people I had met in the 10 years since my first novel was published. Essentially though, I liked the idea of writing a man who loves a certain kind of fiction finding himself in a story that has all the elements of the kind of fiction he dislikes. In life, we don’t always get to choose our genre.

ArtsATL: Your novel is full of allusions to other novels. How did you choose which ones to include in your story about a bookstore owner?

Zevin: They were all literary works I had read, but I also wanted them to be literary works that many other people had read, too. The book talks a bit about “shared sensibility,” and I love the way readers from diverse backgrounds can find connection through books.

ArtsATL: What are your writing habits?

Zevin: Habits is an interesting word — it makes me want to list my bad ones! My worst writing habit is once I start writing one project, I am invariably drawn to working on a different one. As a writer, I’m a bit of a slut.

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