To say that Karen Russell is a favorite of the Amazon editors is like
saying that ice cream tastes "just ok." Her recent book, a collection of
short stories entitled Vampires in the Lemon Grove, was a February Best Book of the Month. Recently, Amazon reached out to her with our "Amazon Asks" questions. We hope you're as delighted to read her answers as we were.
Describe your book in 10 words or less?
Eight tales of monstrous metamorphoses and
violent transformations. Historical-fantastical hybrids. (I cheated with that
What's on your nightstand/bedside table/Kindle?
Favorite books of all time?
Book that made you want to become a writer?
You know, I can't trace that ambition back to a single book. I
honestly can't remember a time when I didn't want to be a writer"”it grew
at-pace with my ability to read books. Maybe A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, or The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle.
Most memorable author moment?
I once got to hug Stephen King onstage.
What talent or superpower would you like to have (not including flight or
I would like to be able to dance. That would be a superpower in my arrhythmic world.
What are you obsessed with now?
My sister got me hooked on "Louie."
What are you stressed about now?
Right now, today? I'm in a D.C. hotel and I am very stressed about the shower
here. I cannot get the hot water and the cold water in this shower to work in
harmony so as not to scald and blind me. It's like an IQ test I keep failing.
From the people who brought you the Spanish Inquisition, this hotel shower.
And the serious answer is that I'm chronically stressed about writing. Anxious
to get back to a new project.
What are you psyched about now?
What's your most prized/treasured possession?
I have a ring that my best friend gave me when we graduated from high
school that I've worn for over a decade now. I'd be devastated if I
lost it. I have a conch shell from my grandfather, and my grandmother's
jewelry box that still, miraculously, smells
like their house in Miami Springs. And I love the few photos that we
have of my
parents as children in Florida.
Pen Envy - Book you wish you'd written?
Harmonium, by Wallace Stevens.
What's next for you?
A blazing hot or freezing cold shower! Nothing in-between, unless I
make a technological break-through! And then I'll head back to Philly
after my book travels, where I hopefully make some good progress on a
What's the last dream you remember?
Oh, I'm not sure I can/should share that with you guys! The last
dream I remember that I don't feel shy about describing was totally
boring"”I had to move my car to avoid a ticket and I couldn't find a
spot. Then I woke up, and lived out that prophecy.
"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself
transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect."
Favorite method of procrastination? Temptation? Vice?
Reading is still my favorite method of procrastination. I'm a fan of a
long, aimless walk, too. Vice-wise, I think I drink enough caffeine
each day to launch a space shuttle.
What do you collect?
I'm not much of a collector. When I was a kid I used to collect
pennies, because I
believed they were worth a fortune"”I went through rolls of pennies from
the Coconut Grove Bank, squinting at the dates. 1979, 1979 "D." It was a
joyless and perfunctory labor. Once I found a 1904 Indian Head penny,
the worth of which I estimated must be eleventy-billion dollars, give or
take. I believed that I could hand this extraordinary penny over at the
Toyota dealership and buy my mother a car. My younger siblings would be
playing outside, but I'd sit in the dim kitchen "collecting" for our
When my mother told me what these ancient pennies were worth in today's economy"”one
cent--I resigned as a numismatist.
Best piece of fan mail you ever got?
I recently got an incredibly lush textured painting of mangroves from a Florida artist, Maryse Jupillat. She said the scene had been inspired by my novel, Swamplandia!
Technically I guess it doesn't count as "mail" since she handed
it to me at a book event, but I was so thrilled by it. What a gift for a writer, to
get a window onto how a reader's mind has envisioned the world of your