For our last Friday Favorites interview, we spoke to Carolyn at Sew Happy Stitch Happy!
This week we’re talking to author Hanna Jameson, author of the post-apocalyptic mystery novel, The Last.
I reviewed this amazing novel earlier in the week. Here’s my five-star review.
What was your inspiration for The Last, specifically in regards to telling a mystery story in a post-apocalyptic setting?
It was inspired by a lot of things because they always are: true crime, our political landscape, nuclear war jokes on Twitter, channelling my own rage and despair and sadness, wanting to explore emotions of loss or grief for the image of what so many thought our society was, offhand comments, JG Ballard, Songs From the Second Floor, The Shining…
Do you keep to a regular writing schedule?
There is no schedule other than the work is constant. If I’m not doing something else, I’m writing or thinking/fantasising about what I’m going to write. The thinking and fantasy takes up more time than the writing and is just as important, I find.
In terms of your writing style, do you outline your story ahead of time, or are you more of a “pantser,” coming up with the story as you write?
I have a very loose outline where I envision the plot hitting certain points, but I mostly let the characters take it from there and work out the nuances. It’s their story really, not mine.
Who is your favorite character in The Last, and why?
I couldn’t pick one. Jon was exasperating and interesting in equal measure. I was in his head for a long time. I love Tomi for reacting in the way I hope I’d react in a crisis. I love Tania for her composure and for guarding her privacy. I love Dylan for his leadership and altruism.
What types of books are you drawn to?
Nonfiction, mainly US labour history or stuff about eccentric European radicals. J.G. Ballard-esque dystopia and sci-fi. Horror. Romance. Historical fiction. I’m all over the shop. Quite fussy but wide-ranging, I don’t care much about genre, I’ll read anything so long as it’s good.
If you could spend a night hanging out with three authors, living or dead, who would you choose?
Jordan Peterson, dead.
Hunter S. Thompson, alive.
Patricia Lockwood, alive.
Which classic or popular book do you hate?
I struggle to come up with one because I don’t finish books I hate, but I studied Enduring Love at college and was left with an enduring hate for both Enduring Love and Ian McEwan’s writing.
How do you keep track of the books you’ve finished and books you want to read?
I have an elaborate system where I move things around the house for months and the closer they get to my bed the more likely it is to be the next thing I read.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller because it’s a stunningly crafted work of actual genius. A comedy that is then revealed to be a tragedy because the takeaway message is that war isn’t funny.
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck because it’s a furious masterpiece that was banned for being such a devastating critique of capitalism, and on every page there are passages of writing so beautiful it makes me want to cry.
Circe by Madeline Miller because it’s perfect, the perfect novel, the kind of story and gorgeous execution that the entire medium exists for. I still haven’t stopped thinking about it.
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison because since reading it I think about it all the time and I think about Toni Morrison’s writing all the time. She is the greatest living novelist.
The Gospel of the Working Class: Labor’s Southern Prophets in New Deal America by Erik Gellman and Jarod Roll. The only nonfiction book in my top five because it quite literally changed my whole life. I have no other way of describing it. It’s a story that altered the course of my life and helped me find the person I am.
Finally, leave us with your favorite bookish quote.
“All of that art-for-art’s-sake stuff is BS,” she declares. “What are these people talking about? Are you really telling me that Shakespeare and Aeschylus weren’t writing about kings? All good art is political! There is none that isn’t. And the ones that try hard not to be political are political by saying, ‘We love the status quo.’ We’ve just dirtied the word ‘politics,’ made it sound like it’s unpatriotic or something.” Morrison laughs derisively. “That all started in the period of state art, when you had the communists and fascists running around doing this poster stuff, and the reaction was ‘No, no, no; there’s only aesthetics.’ My point is that it has to be both: beautiful and political at the same time. I’m not interested in art that is not in the world. And it’s not just the narrative, it’s not just the story; it’s the language and the structure and what’s going on behind it. Anybody can make up a story.”
The Spirit and the Strength: A Profile of Toni Morrison
by Kevin Nance