Second Chances: An Exclusive Q&A With Sonora Jha, Meghan Daum, and Solmaz Sharif

Posted Wed, 9/06/2017 - 8:00am by  |  Category:

Real estate: It’s on our minds here at Hugo House as we prepare for the grand opening of our new and permanent home, tentatively scheduled for spring of 2018. That’s why this year’s Lit Series is all about place. To start us off, authors Sonora Jha, Meghan Daum, and Solmaz Sharif will discuss sequels during their September 15 Lit Series. Read on for what this means to each author.

And if you want to see these three authors in person, read up on their upcoming event.

Sonora Jha

Photo by Dawndra Budd

Q: So, “sequels.” What’s one book you wish had one?

A Confederacy of Dunces. I’d love to know how Ignatius J. Reilly made out in the world. And it would mean that the author, John Kennedy Toole, lived to contribute more satirical literary classics instead of taking his life before his first book was published.

Q: What, if anything, can you tell us about your Literary Series piece?

I’m still working on it, but I suppose I can tell you that it will be angry and it may be funny.

Q: What’s one piece of advice that keeps you going when the writing gets tough?

I tell myself that nothing will change in the world if my writing doesn’t get out there. The world doesn’t need it and I need not take myself so seriously. This usually makes me feel so small and inadequate that I start writing with a little more freedom from pretension.

Meghan Daum

Q: So, “sequels.” What’s one book you wish had one?

I admit I was thrilled to learn that the themes were all about real estate. This is an ongoing interest and obsession of mine so it seemed like a great fit. The one book I wish had a sequel? This may sound strange but I’m rereading Joe Klein’s novel Primary Colors, and I’ve found myself thinking it would be fun and interesting to see a sequel to that.

Primary Colors was published in 1996 under the byline “Anonymous” because it was so clearly a very close-to-the-bone roman a clef about Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. It was an incredibly juicy read and also quite scandalous at the time, and it occurred to me that I’d love to see some kind of 12-years down the line sequel that took us into Hillary Clinton’s primary race against Barack Obama.

I’m going to stop short of saying I’d like yet another sequel about the last election and current state of things, since I think fiction could scarcely compete with the routine contents of the news cycle. But a Primary Colors about the Clinton/Obama race would have been a fantastic read.

Q: What, if anything, can you tell us about your Literary Series piece?

It may be nonfiction but it’s possible I may venture into fiction. In any case, it will definitely be in keeping with the “sequels” theme because it will have to do, at least in part, with the phenomenon of middle-aged people restarting their lives to one degree or another. It will have to with something I’ve experienced as a relatively newly divorced and (relatively newly?) middle-age person, which is that the more broken and scuffed and—let’s face it—compromised your life becomes, the more interesting it becomes, too.

Of course, it’s wonderful to be young and promising and feeling like everything’s on the right track. There’s nothing like that feeling. But there’s something about skidding off the tracks that can add dimension to your life in a way you might not have thought.

I’m not saying it’s a happier way to live (I try not to use the word “happiness” anyway, since it’s too general to mean much) but in many respects it’s a more honest way to live. I like to think about it in terms of the difference between being broken and being broken-in. The first is associated with pain. The second is associated with comfort. In so many ways, getting older is nothing more than a process of breaking in the leather of your life.

Q: What’s one piece of advice that keeps you going when the writing gets tough?

When the writing gets tough, don’t read the work of some literary genius in order to feel inspired. Read something utterly mediocre that was published nonetheless and ask yourself “if this crap is out there, why shouldn’t mine be?” Works every time.

Solmaz Sharif

Q: So, “sequels.” What’s one book you wish had one?

Yikes. This is hard. I can’t think of a single one. Books end where they do. The best end is no end at all, but an opening where the reader can enter and continue. To wish a sequel would be wishing myself freed of that responsibility. That said, I’m ready for George R. R. Martin to drop the next volume already. Haven’t read them myself, but I want to hear what happens.

Q: What, if anything, can you tell us about your Literary Series piece?

I can say it is in progress, and I don’t want to jinx it, but it is more of an essay that has to do with translation and exile, translation being a kind of sequel.

Q: What’s one piece of advice that keeps you going when the writing gets tough?

Remember lives are at stake. Yours, too.