"Chloe Benjamin is the author of The Immortalists, a New York Times bestseller, and The Anatomy of Dreams."
1. How has your life changed since writing “The Immortalists”?
Life has changed in so many ways! Most importantly, I’ve been able to start writing full-time (I was working day jobs while writing THE IMMORTALISTS and my first novel, THE ANATOMY OF DREAMS)—which is a huge gift and privilege.
THE IMMORTALISTS has also brought me a readership that I never take for granted. The support and enthusiasm I’ve felt from readers, and their excitement about future books, is an enormous honor and really all you can dream of as a writer.
2. What is one thing that you learned about yourself while writing “The Immortalists”?
That although I could write the central takeaways of the book—for instance, that there is freedom in uncertainty—I really did not feel or embody them in my own life. Ironically, it was not until after I finished the book that I was able to work on the sort of long-held anxiety and control patterns that I explored in characters like Daniel and Varya.
Learning to let go, to live in the moment, to trust rather than fear—those are all things I was finally able to put into practice years afterward, but perhaps that wouldn’t have happened if not for exploring them in writing first.
3. When did you fall in love with writing?
I was a voracious reader as a child, and I dictated stories to my parents before I could write them myself! From the age of nine or ten, I wrote all the time.
4. What are three things that inspire you?
Outer space, elder women, coincidences.
5. What characters would you say most closely resemble your own personality?
I’d say I have Klara’s passion… and Varya’s anxiety!
6. The concept of life and death is prominent in “The Immortalists”, how often do you think about mortality and how long did it take for this particular story to come out of you?
I think about mortality all the time and have since I was a little kid. I don’t think that’s necessarily unusual—kids are attuned to the big questions that adults often prefer not to face—but probably a series of losses and personal circumstances over years were in the background/subconscious as the idea came to me.
7. What would you do if you knew the exact date of your own death?
I’d be very happy if it were many decades away.
8. Have you ever visited a fortune teller and if so, what was the strangest thing they mentioned to you?
I’ve never visited a fortune teller—I’m too superstitious!
9. How was your writing process different for “The Immortalists” compared to “The Anatomy of Dreams”?
For Anatomy, the research I did was mostly limited to dreams. For The Immortalists, the research covered so many more subjects, and also a much wider period of time, with greater cultural and sociopolitical implications. The books were also quite different experiences internally; I’ll always be fond of my first book, but with The Immortalists, I felt a deep sense of attachment and mission, the sense that it was a book I was meant to write.
10. What do you hope readers take away from this book?
I hope it provides solace and companionship as readers go through their own losses and contemplation about mortality. Reading makes me feel less alone, and I hope my writing can do that for others.
11. What’s your best advice for getting over writer’s block?
Research. Take in other art. Take a walk, or a shower—ideas happen in the shower! And if all else fails, set it aside for a while. Sometimes we have to stop pushing for the next right step to emerge.
12. What’s the best book you have read this year so far?
Alice Munro, “Runaway”.
13. Do you plan on writing more books in the future?
That’s an easy and emphatic YES!
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