Book Talk: Susan Choi returns to probe love, youthful selfishness

Thu Aug 1, 2013 10:48am EDT
 
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By Suzanne Barlyn

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Author Susan Choi in her latest book starts with a graduate student's fascination with a professor when she arrives at a prestigious university in 1992. But the initial attraction is where similarities between "My Education" and usual tales of college love end.

The award-winning writer, in her fourth novel, sends student Regina Gottlieb on a journey in which she indulges her fascination with Professor Nicholas Brodeur, before it goes in another direction. Through it all, her youthful self-absorption plays a central role.

Choi won the Asian-American Literary Award for fiction for her first novel, "The Foreign Student." Her second novel, "American Woman," was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize, and her third, "A Person of Interest," was up for the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award.

The author, who teaches at Princeton University, spoke to Reuters about "My Education" and her writing process.

Q: There are a lot of tales about students who are drawn to professors. How did you make your version different?

A: Obviously, the fact that Regina doesn't end up with that professor at all. I don't often do a lot of advance planning in terms of plot. So, I didn't try to incorporate a twist. It's more that I sort of knew what the story was about and tried to find my way in. But (Professor Brodeur) is the engine of the story in that meeting him is the key to everything that follows, but not in the way that readers would expect.

Q: What other techniques do you use in your writing process?

A: What's become most characteristic in recent years, I think, is the dogged pursuit of momentum. Ever since having kids (now ages 9 and 5-1/2), I became a much more - I don't know - almost a more mechanical writer. I realized that I couldn't spend a lot of time waiting for inspiration. I had to sit down every day and try to bang out a certain number of words.   Continued...