TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery.
Ramona: Thank you! I’m so happy to be here!
TQ: When and why did you start writing?
Ramona: I started writing when I was a kid, and I took it very seriously. I kept going through high school and college and beyond. I love the way it keeps the weirdness and hugeness and beauty of the world still for a moment so that we can look at it and feel it.
TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Ramona: I write very quickly at first, and then very slowly as I move on. In a first draft I’m always afraid that the thing will slip out of my fingers before I can capture it, so I write as fast as I can. After making a grand mess, patience is key.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Ramona: I wish I was a plotter. I find that if I plan too much I don’t write very well, so I have to leave a lot of dark space in front of me.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Ramona: Whatever I’m working on at the moment undoubtedly seems like the hardest thing ever. I’d say the beginning is the hardest for me. Although the middle can be a trial. And the end! I was “finishing” this novel for about three years.
TQ: Describe No One is Here Except All of Us in 140 characters or less.
Ramona: Small village, big war. No place safe except for the imagination.
TQ: What inspired you to write No One is Here Except All of Us?
Ramona: My grandmother was born in Romania and all my life she told me the strangest and most amazing stories about her family there. When I was in my early twenties, I began to want to know more about that place and those people. I went to New York and spent a couple of weeks interviewing my grandmother, but still, I wanted more. I realized that if I was really going to know it, I would have to write the story myself.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for No One is Here Except All of Us?
Ramona: I put all my research down for most of the writing process, in order to give my imagination plenty of space. When the book was well formed I went back and did lots of reading about history and Romania and Judaism and folklore.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Ramona: The main character in the book is Lena. Her husband, Igor (based on my great-grandfather) was fairly easy to write, since he was funny and his part in the book is brighter. It was always a relief to come back to him in sunny Italy after spending time writing about the heartbreak Lena was experiencing in the fields and woods.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in No One is Here Except All of Us?
Ramona: In the early pages of the book, it is 1939 and the residents of a tiny Romanian village decide to reinvent the world, realizing that it might be their only shot at safety. I loved writing some of the beginning scenes when the villagers are sorting out the rules of the new world. Some villagers suggest pairing everyone off by height, some people suggest matching up the smart with the smart and hope to create new genius. Two women trade husbands. It was fun to imagine a place where anything could happen. Even in difficult circumstances, the imagination is alive.
TQ: What's next?
Ramona: I have a collection of short stories coming out in May, which I’m really excited about. It’s called A GUIDE TO BEING BORN and it explores the many transformations we make in our lives--the many times we are born--as we move through childhood, love, parenthood and death. Look for it in May!
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Ramona: Thank you for having me!
No One is Here Except All of Us
Riverhead Trade, February 5, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 416 pages
Previously published in Hardcover (February 2, 2012)
In 1939, the residents of a tiny Romanian village are counting upon their isolation to protect them from the catastrophe sweeping Europe. When a mysterious stranger is washed up on the riverbank and the illusion of peace is shattered, the villagers are forced to acknowledge the precariousness of their situation. But even with danger imminent in every direction, the territory of imagination is limitless.
At the suggestion of an eleven-year-old-girl and the stranger, the villagers decide, through sheer will, to reinvent the world. Destiny is unwritten. Time and history are forgotten. And for years, there is boundless hope. But as the young girl comes of age, as the real world continues to unfold alongside the imagined one, she will learn the bigness of being alive as an individual, as a member of a tribe, and as a participant in history, and discover the power in shaping one’s own truths.
And coming in May...
A Guide to Being Born
Riverhead, May 2, 2013
Hardcover and eBook, 208 pages
Reminiscent of Aimee Bender and Karen Russell—an enthralling new collection that uses the world of the imagination to explore the heart of the human condition.
Major new literary talent Ramona Ausubel combines the otherworldly wisdom of her much-loved debut novel, No One Is Here Except All of Us, with the precision of the short-story form. A Guide toBeing Born is organized around the stages of life—love, conception, gestation, birth—and the transformations that happen as people experience deeply altering life events, falling in love, becoming parents, looking toward the end of life. In each of these eleven stories Ausubel’s stunning imagination and humor are moving, entertaining, and provocative, leading readers to see the familiar world in a new way.
In “Atria” a pregnant teenager believes she will give birth to any number of strange animals rather than a human baby; in “Catch and Release” a girl discovers the ghost of a Civil War hero living in the woods behind her house; and in “Tributaries” people grow a new arm each time they fall in love. Funny, surprising, and delightfully strange—all the stories have a strong emotional core; Ausubel’s primary concern is always love, in all its manifestations.
(from the author's website)
Riverhead Books in 2012, with the collection of short stories A Guide to Being Born to follow. She holds an MFA from the University of California, Irvine where she won the Glenn Schaeffer Award in Fiction and served as editor of Faultline Journal of Art & Literature.
Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, One Story, the Green Mountains Review, pax americana, The Orange Coast Review, Slice and collected in The Best American Fantasy and online in The Paris Review. Her work was included in a list of “100 Other Distinguished Stories of 2008″ in the Best American Short Stories and thrice as a “Notable” story in the Best American Non-Required Reading. She has been a finalist for the Puschart Prize and a Fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.
She lives in Santa Barbara, California.
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