Anne Korkeakivi is the author of An Unexpected Guest. She has published widely in short fiction journals, newspapers, and magazines, and her debut novel has been met with acclaim. We asked her some questions about her life and writing.
What are your favorite works of fiction?
I have too many to name but, in general, I like literary fiction; language is important in my appreciation of a book. I enjoy learning while I read also, and to be transported.
What inspired you to write An Unexpected Guest?
On a visit to Paris in 2006, I was walking down the Rue de Varenne thinking about the morning’s headlines, dominated as they were by scandals involving politicians and secrets, and about the prevailing post-9/11 atmosphere. The idea came to me right then and there, in the form of a question.
Your book is said to use the simple setting of a dinner party to delve into the complications of an entire era. Is this structure typical of your writing?
Stories that talk about one thing in order to talk about something else, whether it be a concept or an event, definitely appeal to me both as a reader and a writer.
You live in Switzerland and you’ve lived in France and Finland before. What was the impetus for your life abroad?
My husband, who is an international human-rights lawyer from Finland, has provided the practical motivation for my most recent moves outside the U.S.
Have you always written? If not, what did you do before?
I’ve been writing in one form or another for pretty much all of my life. I completed my first poetry collection in elementary school and my first play in high school; as an adult, I worked for years as a nonfiction writer, contributing to publications like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and The Times (UK).
How did you get off the ground as a writer?
Professionally? As a nonfiction writer, I wrote articles on spec – mostly on culture and the arts, sent them cold to editors, slowly built relationships. I pretty much had to go through the same process from scratch when I switched to fiction. I’m really grateful to those who offered encouragement.
What drove you to make the jump from journalist to novelist? Does it feel strikingly different to write long fiction?
I always wanted to write fiction, to write novels. Turns out that writing fiction is quite a different thing from writing nonfiction, however! I really had to start over. I had to re-think writing.
Your favorite thing about this book.
Oh, dear! That would feel like choosing a favorite kid.
Does your writing ever surprise you retroactively?
Not that I can think of, but other people’s responses can.
A new novel! Before I really hunker down with it, though, I’ve been working through some short-stories. It’s kind of a nice break – like changing the dial on the radio for a few minutes.