You Can Do Anything if You Just Do it Slowly: An Interview with Lauren Groff

President Obama called her novel Fates and Furies his favorite of the year. The New York Times named it a bestseller. bestowed its top annual pick upon it. Seth Meyers and Charlie Rose even sat down for interviews with her.

.. I almost never feel like I know what I’m doing, which is actually a really exciting and wonderful feeling.

.. I initially try really, really hard to leave as much mystery as possible in the writing process as long as possible. So I don’t want to know what I’m doing. I want this to be messy. And so even when I think I have a really firm grasp of the character, I know for sure that that does not necessarily mean that I have a grasp of what the character has done in the past or will do in any given situation.

One theme that pops up in all of your novels is narcissism. What interests you about narcissism?

I’m from people for whom narcissism would be the worst thing you could possibly have, and so I was hypersensitive to it for a very, very long time. My decision to become a creative person in the world seemed to be working against the grain of what I had always been taught — not to be the biggest narcissist on the planet.

I don’t think we all are narcissists but I think there is a time in our lives when we all believe that everyone else around us is a robot and was created for us. And I see it in my little boys right now. And eventually most of us grow out of that phase, and it’s really interesting to see people for whom that phase has not ended in their adulthood.

.. I think that we’re in this place right now, and it’s really exciting to watch, of a kind of radical transparency; but also, at the same time, those people are pretending while posting selfies, which should be a hundred percent nonfiction right? They’re constructing this narrative, which may or may not be truthful.

.. So I think that people have gotten confused. I think possibly the internet has blurred a lot of the lines, which, before the internet, were really, really stark and defined.

.. I honestly, honestly love Nabokov. I think Speak, Memory is one of the best books ever written. But I am most interested by Véra.

..  You can write a million books about Véra Nabokov and never reach the end of her because she is a complicated, flawed, interesting human being.

.. but it was written in not-straightforward realism. It was written using a different toolbox, I think. And of course he would prefer the first half because I used every single narrative trope — historically masculine trope — that I could, right?

.. I’m a working writer. And I think working writers never, ever feel like a big deal. And I know for a fact that I’m not, because I’m still as confused and angsty and nervous about my work as I’ve ever been. I could have told you I had more confidence when I was eighteen years old and that would’ve been absolutely true. The deeper I get into this life of writing and making things, the more I understand that I don’t know.

.. I just re-read Roberto Calasso’s The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony. It is the best book I’ve ever read.

.. He was saying that as a fiction writer his biggest goal is to connect — that was the word he used, connect.

.. Would you agree? Do you have a different word — or is it about connection for you too?

That’s sort of the goal, right? I mean it’s to make people feel better about their existence, right? I think that’s the ultimate thing that you could do in life. And we get this one extraordinary tool of writing to make people happier. Or maybe even not happier but make people feel the magic of being alive, which is so easy to overlook.

.. Well I’m such a shy person, like inherently shy. I don’t think I talked to anyone outside of my family until I was in third grade. So my very first major connection to other people that weren’t in my immediate family was through books.