National Book Awards finalist Emily St. John Mandel says pomp and circumstance can derail the everyday work of creating complex, flawed characters.
Peter Stamm, author of All Days Are Night, says his work became deeper once he shed some delusions of grandeur.
The creator of a new documentary outlines how closely farmworkers' lives are connected to what's on grocery-store shelves
American Interior author and rock musician Gruff Rhys learned a lot by following in footsteps of a gullible pioneer.
Reading Lolita in Tehran author Azar Nafisi says the best books are "republics of imagination" erasing national and historic boundaries.
According to science fiction writer William Gibson, a book's opening should be an inviting enigma to the reader—and a motivational benchmark for the writer.
A panicked moment reciting William Butler Yeats in an MRI convinced the former poet laureate Billy Collins that oration is poetry's last, most enlightened defense.
Ernest Hemingway's matter-of-fact style taught author Vikram Chandra to find sublime in the ordinary, and depth in deceptively flat prose.
Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jane Smiley looks to Our Mutual Friend for inspiration on how to harness the spontaneous, liberating energy that comes from writing imagery.
A crisis of quality in literary criticism led Robert Silvers to found The New York Review of Books—and he believes the crisis continues today, online.
The Cloud Atlas author keeps a James Wright poem as a reminder to live in the now.
The Wilco singer says Daniel Johnston epitomizes his mostly instinctual creative process.
Novelist Edan Lepucki looks to the subversive metaphors in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale for lessons in channeling characters' weird, rebellious spirits.
Using the guard-turned-vandal in The Heart So White as his guide, author Ben Lerner writes books in which characters interact with art, and occasionally try to set it on fire.
Author Stephan Eirik Clark returns to Don DeLillo's White Noise for lessons in interrogating American culture.
Memoirist Sean Wilsey says he knows he's finished with a story when it makes him laugh.
A Midsummer Night's Dream got it right, Richard Bausch says: Authors must find a way to turn nothing into something.
Author Lev Grossman says C.S. Lewis taught him that in fiction, stepping into magical realms means encountering earthly concerns in transfigured form.
Hot Chip singer Alexis Taylor explains why he tries to forget critics—and his own self-consciousness—when creating.
William T. Vollmann, author of Last Stories and Other Stories, explains why he works by an assassin's credo: "Nothing is true; all is permissible."