Author Q&A: Julianna Baggott (Pure)

Julianna Baggott
Author Julianna Baggott

In addition to her latest novel, Pure, Julianna Baggott is the author of seventeen books which appear under her own name as well as Bridget Asher and N.E. Bode, and three collections of poetry. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Best American Poetry, Best Creative Nonfiction, NPR’s Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered, and Here & Now. She teaches at Florida State University, and is co-founder of the nonprofit Kids in Need – Books in Deed, getting free books to underprivileged kids in Florida. She’s married to David G.W. Scott and has four kids.

Pure is the first novel in a post-apocalyptic trilogy with film rights optioned by Fox2000. Having received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, Pure is a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, a People magazine selection for people who enjoyed The Hunger Games, in Indie-Next selection, a Starbucks Bookish Digital Book Club pick, an Entertainment Weekly pick for “Find Me a Twilight.

In what way do you think literature has the ability to change the way people live their lives?

Writing, for me, is the daily practice of empathy. Reading should be a practice of empathizing too. Each time we step into another person’s world view, we broaden who we are as people.

What was the last book you gave as a present?

The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore.

What is the best sentence you've ever written?

Oh, it’s like picking my favorite child. I have four kids and thousands and thousands of sentences. Can’t do it. The other sentences will get pissed. Revolt. Madness will ensue.

What's the best sentence you've ever read?

I like the controversy surrounding the final line of The Great Gatsby.

Describe your writing routine.

I’m a daily writer. I believe in hours. I have a complex relationship with the page – one I protect. I also have learned, by necessity, to write while not writing. My life demanded it.

Do you ever listen to music when you write? If so what's on your ideal playlist?

I listen to it before I write, but not during. For Pure, I listened to How Soon is Now by The Smiths. (And Thunder Road makes a cameo in the book. Hinted at.)

Which inspires your writing more: beauty or controversy?

Beauty – but the honest kind...and that leads to controversy.

Best bookstore you've ever been to?

Oh, you know, I had a hometown bookstore when my first book came out and if you’d driven past it at that point, you’d have thought they only sold one book. Mine. It’s gone now, sadly. (Again, if I started shouting faves here – no, no, no. Love them all.)

What historical literary destination would you most like to visit?

Narnia? A party at Gatsby’s house?

Is Facebook good for you?

It is. I’ve connected with so many friends and far-flung family members I simply wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s also where I get information sometimes – research-wise. It’s sometimes where I hear the news. It’s my water-cooler. (Writing is so solitary.) What can I say? I love seeing people’s babies.

What about Amazonir?t=identitytheor 20&l=ur2&o=1?

It’s so highly politicized. I feel like I’d have to write a treatise to talk about it – one that was about the entire publishing industry.

Do you own an e-reader?

My husband has an iPad and a Kindle. I have trouble with them because I’m a kinetic reader. I memorize weirdly as I go – not word for word, but I get to know the book physically, where I am in it by feel. I write in books too. Mark ‘em up. So it’s not that I fetishize the book. I don’t. I’m hard on them in a sexy way, almost.

Which will last longer: cable TV or the printed word?

The printed word will win out simply as long as it’s cheaper.

What non-literary profession would you find most compelling to pursue?


What is one of your vices?

Dark chocolate (with sea salt).

What is one of your prejudices?

Hummers. I judge Hummer drivers.

Favorite books of the past few years?

I’m so horrible at this. Can I tell you what I’m reading? Busy Monsters by William Giraldi. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. Museum of Accidents by Rachel Zucker and Lighthead by Terrance Hayes.

Favorite word?


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