I asked Andrew about his earliest influences, his use of music, and finding Greta's voice. And although he doesn't mention it here, Andrew plays a mean ukulele! (YouTube it and see...)
My mother just sent me the box of memorabilia from growing up, and within it were ten Oz books I loved as a child—and I just wanted to read them all over again. I found them, as a child, on the shelf and they were the first books I chose myself to send myself away on a journey. It went from there, to sci-fi like Asimov, directly to Camus, who I loved dearly as a teenager.
2. When writing The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, what enabled you to capture Greta’s voice?
I wanted her to be anxious and sad but a decent person, and I wanted her voice to be able to mimic the ages she was inhabiting, so I tried a number of voices until I went back and rewrote the first page. Writing it as a fairy tale, with unusual words, freed me to write her as someone who has finished her story and is telling it, breathlessly, for the first time.
3. How important was music to the writing of The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells?
Usually I write without any sound at all, or else with minimal, repetitive contemporary classical that seems to get me into the mode. But I kept delving into old songbooks and understanding the joy people in those eras felt around music, especially with the advent of the phonograph and, later, the radio. What tough times they lived in; what great music they made!
4. What advice would you give to an unpublished author?
Make a community of artistic friends, not necessarily writers; painters have a similar mindset and are wonderful readers, and discussing your day with a fellow artist can be enormously rewarding and encouraging. They will understand the joys of small triumphs, and disappointments of failure, the frustration of not being published or noticed. They can not help your career, but friends aren't for that. And you need them more than you need a big contract, because they will be with you the entirety of your career.
5. What's next for you?
I'm working on two books, one set in modern day San Francisco, the other….well, in outer space. Why not?