Dan Chaon: LibraryThing Author Interview
Dan Chaon is the author of the novel You Remind Me of Me, and two collections of short stories, Fitting Ends and Among the Missing. Chaon lives in Cleveland, Ohio, and teaches at Oberlin College. His new novel Await Your Reply is a twisting tale of three seemingly unconnected characters.
I'm not sure how to sum up the book without giving too much away, so I'll make you do it. How would you describe your new novel, Await Your Reply?
It is a story about identity in our contemporary digital age. It follows three seperate stories of people who step out of their own lives and into new ones, and the stories eventually converge. The book begins with three images: A severed hand in an ice chest. A lighthouse in the middle of the Nebraska prairie. A man driving a car toward the Arctic Circle, in the light of the midnight sun. And then it begins to weave those scenes together.
The working title of the book was "Amnesiascape," but it turns out there's a book by Steve Erikson called "Amnesiascope" so that didn't work out. I thought maybe I would call it "Sleepwalk" but no one was really happy with that.
At the last minute, we came up with "Await Your Reply."
It came from that spam email that we all get, and which is quoted at length in the book: the daughter of a wealthy Nigerian gold merchant needs our help, if only we can give her our bank account and social security number. I love the melancholy formality of "Await Your Reply," and I like that there's something slightly sinister about it.
If you could be someone else, who would you be?
Your novel takes place all over—from Las Vegas to Nebraska to the Arctic. Have you been to all these places?
I visited some of them. Some I more or less invented, after doing a little research on the internet and looking at travel brochures. It's good that I'm a fiction writer, because when a place didn't suit my needs, I just made stuff up.
You're on Twitter (@Danchaon)—what do you think of writing in 140 character bursts?
I like the way information gets disseminated on Twitter, and I find that I'm always learning a lot of new stuff. I'm mostly following people who are interested in books, and it's a great way to keep track of what's happening. Oddly, many of the people who are following me on twitter are naked single women with videocams, but I guess that is the price of fame.
I read somewhere that you have a reward/punishment system in place to keep yourself writing. True?
Sort of. I try to make sure I keep to a schedule, and one of the ways I try to keep myself on the straight and narrow is by setting goals and having consequences for not reaching those goals. For example, being forced to have an all vegan day if I don't make my writing quota. Or no beer. Or no TV. All equally harsh.
Tell us about your personal library—what's on your bookshelves?
I read a lot every year, and it's hard to narrow it down. Some of the books I've recently enjoyed include:
—interview by Abby Blachly
Books by Dan Chaon
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (12346 copies)
Await Your Reply (1394 copies)
McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales (1289 copies)
You Remind Me of Me (784 copies)
The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005 (576 copies)
Ill Will: A Novel (430 copies)
The Best American Short Stories 2003 (402 copies)
Among the Missing (382 copies)
Poe's Children: The New Horror: An Anthology (348 copies)
Stay Awake: Stories (295 copies)
Shadow Show (267 copies)
The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet (202 copies)
The Best American Short Stories 1996 (197 copies)
Prize Stories 2001: The O. Henry Awards (116 copies)
Fitting Ends (107 copies)
21st Century Dead (95 copies)
The Best Horror of the Year Volume Five (71 copies)
Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror (65 copies)
Seize the Night: New Tales of Vampiric Terror (39 copies)
The Best of the Best Horror of the Year (14 copies)
The Bees [short story] (5 copies)
Der Wille zum Bösen: Roman (4 copies)
The Other (2 copies)
Recent author interviews
Brad Stone (2017-03-22)
David Mitchell (2015-10-26)
Sharma Shields (2015-02-20)
Kara Cooney (2014-11-21)
Daniel Mallory Ortberg (2014-10-22)
Gregory Maguire (2014-09-25)
Ann Leckie (2014-09-24)
Andy Weir (2014-08-18)
Matthew Thomas (2014-07-24)
Maximillian Potter (2014-07-24)
Alexi Zentner (2014-05-20)
Ian Doescher (2014-03-24)
Jeff Greenfield (2013-11-13)
Patrick Ness (2013-10-16)
Tom Standage (2013-10-16)
Samantha Shannon (2013-08-20)
Paul Collins (2013-07-24)
Travis McDade (2013-07-24)
Colum McCann (2013-05-22)
Jennifer McVeigh (2013-05-22)
About author interviews
Each month we feature a few exclusive interviews with authors in our "State of the Thing" newsletter. Know an author who might want to be interviewed? Find out more.