SSDD #5 – Peggy Riley

There’s still plenty of room at the ever growing round table of bookish people and the fifth person in the room is debut novelist Peggy Riley. You may have caught my review of her first novel Amity & Sorrow earlier in the week and it’s worth noting that Peggy is a great twitterer.

1. Which author inspires you? Whether in your work, life or reading habits?

I remain inspired by Louise Erdrich, the Chippewa-German-American novelist, poet and bookseller. Her words thrill me. Her stories are rich with myth, history, magic and complicated women. Each book stands alone but together they tell the story of multiple generations of two North Dakota families, as well as Native American culture in the Plains in the 19th and 20th centuries. As a bookseller, she owns Birchbark Books in Minneapolis and champions local writers, regularly running salons, readings and signings, while still cranking out exceptional work on a regular basis. She is my hero.

2. Which book has caused the biggest emotional response from you? (Not just sadness, but joy, anger, etc)

“Ariel”, Sylvia Plath’s collection of poems written in the last few months of her life. I read them as a student and budding feminist. They shook me, inspired me, and made me fear that wanting to write would drive me mad. I will always have a soft spot for Sylvia and, now that I’m less militant, Ted Hughes, too.

3. Which book do you wish you had written and why?

“The Witch of Blackbird Pond” by Elizabeth George Speare, the tale of the friendship between an orphan and a Quaker and how it led to both being accused of witchcraft in 17th century New England. I devoured it as a girl. Who knows how many times I reread it? To write a story that makes a girl want to reread it immediately and that stays with her for decades is a tremendous achievement.

4. Go to a bookcase at random, close your eyes and point at a random book. What is the book and have you read it yet?

I’m typing this in the Blue House, where I write, so the bookcases have mostly reference books. I speared “Racial Hygiene: Medicine Under the Nazis”, which is on the shelf of books for my current project. I have read it and found it very dense and informative. Reading it on the train caused a few raised eyebrows from my fellow passengers.

5. What is your favourite book and why? (One you’d save from fire, take to a deserted island and recommend everyday of your life)

An impossible question, Dan. Having wandered the house and perused all my shelves for one favourite, I have decided I would run from a fire with whatever I was currently reading – I hate not to finish a book!

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