When you open up an event to take questions from the public, you never know what you’ll get.
“Someone once asked me in all seriousness what I eat for breakfast each morning, as though that would be some clue to my literary achievements,” said author Allison Amend, who visits The Bookworm of Edwards tonight at 6 p.m. to discuss her latest book, “A Nearly Perfect Copy.”
“Sometimes people ask questions which make it clear they haven’t even read the back of the book,” Amend said. “My previous novel, ‘Stations West,’ took place in Colorado and Oklahoma in the 19th century. Its protagonists were men. Someone — not in Colorado — asked me if the book was autobiographical.”
“A Nearly Perfect Copy” is a novel of family and forgery that conjures the rarified international art world.
We asked Amend to sum up the book in three sentences or less, a daunting task, we’re aware.
“‘A Nearly Perfect Copy’ is the story of a director of 18th-19th century prints and drawings at a prestigious auction house in New York who is grieving her dead son,” she said. “The other protagonist is a frustrated Spanish artist living in Paris who turns to forging artwork stolen by the Nazis during World War Two for recognition and money. Eventually their stories converge, and the book asks questions about authenticity and replication of the irreplaceable.”
Amend spent several years and multiple visits to Paris researching and writing the novel. The book takes the reader from tiny studios on the outskirts of Paris to high society auction houses in Manhattan and ultimately asks the question: can something truly be replicated without any loss? She took the time to answer a few questions for the Vail Daily.
Vail Daily: What was the hardest part about writing this book for you?
Allison Amend: Working out the plot and the structure was a challenge. There are two simultaneous stories, and yet artifacts from each make appearances in the other setting. Plus I had to keep track of who knew what when, and make sure the reader was told everything he/she needed to know at the appropriate time.
VD: In your next life, what would you like to come back as?
AA: We’ve wandered into the Proust questionnaire! I’m really good at lying around — I would make a good dog, and I’ve always felt an affinity for the groundhog. But if we’re speaking aspiration-wise, a revered masterpiece of art wouldn’t be a bad choice.
VD: What was the last book you read that left you stunned?
AA: So many! I’ve been recommending Jennifer Egan’s ‘Visit from the Goon Squad’ for a couple of years now. There are also terrific books out from Sheri Joseph, Elliott Holt, Amy Brill, Leigh Newman … I also read men, too, though female novelists seem particularly busy publishing this spring!
VD: Have you begun working on your next project yet? What can you tell us about it?
AA: Yes. Since the last novel is jokingly called the “Jewish Cowboy Novel” I jokingly decided to write a “Jews in Weird Places” trilogy. A Nearly Perfect Copy is not part of that trilogy. My new novel deals with unlikely spies in the Galapagos Islands in the years leading up to World War II. The time from completion of a book to its publication is so long; most novelists are well into a new project by the time their book comes out.
VD: You reach creative writing at Lehman College in New York City. Tell me what kind of advice you give students who are hoping to write the next Great American Novel?
AA: Get a day job! Seriously, it’s increasingly difficult to make a living as a writer. It’s important to feed and house yourself while you develop your art. Also, write what you feel passionate about. Chasing trends is a hopeless pursuit. And perseverance is 80 percent of the battle — continuing to work on your project in the face of life’s exigencies, and persisting even when frequently rejected are essential parts of being a writer.
VD: And what’s a question that you’re always hoping someone will ask, but we keep missing the boat on?
AA: Only one person has ever asked me about my friend Michael, to whom I refer in the acknowledgments. He drowned, though not in the tsunami, and is greatly missed.
I keep waiting for Saturday Night Live to call and ask me to host. I’m worried —Text ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/SolidText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/SolidText ColorText ColorText ColorText Color maybe my phone is broken? What’s taking them so long?