[NOTE: This is the first of a series of Q&As with the Shirley Jackson Award nominees — and soon-to-be winners, as they’ll be announced this weekend!]
Robert Jackson Bennett‘s 2010 debut Mr. Shivers won the Shirley Jackson award as well as the Sydney J. Bounds Newcomer Award. His second novel, The Company Man, won a Special Citation of Excellence from the Philip K Dick Award, as well as an Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original. His third novel, The Troupe, has topped many “Best of 2012” lists, including that of Publishers Weekly. His fourth novel, American Elsewhere, is now nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel. His fifth, City of Stairs, will be released in September of 2015.
He lives in Austin with his wife and son. He can be found on Twitter at @robertjbennett.
Robert kindly answered a few of my questions…
UPDATE 7/13: AMERICAN ELSEWHERE won the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel!
Kristin Centorcelli: Congrats on the Shirley Jackson Award nomination! Will you tell us about your novel and what inspired you to write it?
“Utopia is that which is in contradiction with reality.” – Albert Camus
“There is no way I can avoid thinking about the kind of world I belong to. The abuse of utopias disfigures everything.” – Floriano Martins
(Note: this is an edited excerpt from a longer discussion of the book that I hope to publish later. I’ll be discussing this book at Readercon 24’s Recent Fiction Book Club panel; the schedule is up at my blog. Also, some SPOILERS ahead for the book)
There are many things that I love about reading a novel, and one of them is when my expectations are inverted, tossed about, and I gain not just a new perspective on the narrative, but on my own thoughts. Robert Jackson Bennett’s latest novel American Elsewhere does that, but does not accomplish a singular objective so much as give the reader’s imagination a rich, sometimes messy terrain to explore. It is an SF novel, a horror novel, a broadside against Great American Novels, and an exceptional reading experience that became, to me, a meditation on and satire of the notion of utopia.