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20 QUESTIONS WITH: Frances Lefkowitz, author of To Have Not

20 Questions with Frances Lefkowitz
I would like to thank Frances for stopping by BookHounds today!  I highly recommend her memoir, To Have Not.
1.      Bookmarks or dog ears?
Both. Bookmarks to keep my place, and dog ears to mark meaningful passages I want to read again.
2.      Dust jacket on or off when reading a hard back?
On, so I can use the flap as a bookmark.
3.      Favorite author?
Depends on the day. Today I’m thinking Alice Munro, or maybe Ernest Hemmingway. Or perhaps Italo Calvino, or an even more obscure Italian writer, Natalia Ginzburg. I could say Ursula LeGuin, Janet Frame, or Eileen Myles, and even songwriter Leonard Cohen and poet James Wright. But I think I’m going to say Jamaica Kincaid. I love her fierceness and her economical yet lyrical way with words.
4.      Favorite genre’?
I have a secret passion for mysteries, from Agatha Christie to Georges Simenon to Carl Hiassen. I like the way they explore the highs and lows of human behavior, delve into deep questions about ethics and desperation, but also keep you on the edge of your seat wondering who done it.
5.      What is the best book you have read in the last year?
The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht, though The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas is right up there. They’re both debut novels by young writers who are natural storytellers. Tiger is darker, and Oracle is more uplifting, but they both have an exotic magic that I love. Since I’m a magazine book reviewer, I got to read advance copies, but these will be coming out in February and March.
6.      What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
Would it be too audacious for me to say “mine”? Readers keep asking me if it’s going into film, so apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so. It’d make  a gritty but resonant coming of age story full of struggle, triumph, and a few rock stars thrown in to spice it up.
7.      E books: Friend or foe?
Books are sacred objects to me, and I love to hold, touch, read, even smell them. But they do take up a lot of room, so if you want to read them electronically, I won’t begrudge you.
8.      Was there a book that inspired you to write?
There was no particular book that made me pick up the pen, but every book I’ve  ever read has inspired me in some way. Language and stories just seeped into me, and eventually I had to write my own.
9.      What are you reading right now?
 The Ms. Hempel Chronicles by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum and Investing in an Uncertain Economy for Dummies by Sheryl Garrett. The first is a sweet and quirky novel about a young school teacher, and the second is, well, self-explanatory.
10.     What is the last book you bought just for the cover?
I don’t think I’ve ever bought a book just for the cover, though I do it all the time with magazines.
11.     What is the last book you received in the mail?
As the book reviewer for Good Housekeeping, I get maybe ten books a month sent to me, mostly advanced copies. I just got an advance copy of Michelle Moran’s Madame Tussaud, a novel based on the life of the famous wax-museum woman. It looks quite intriguing.
12.     What is the number of books you own?
Maybe 500, but it’s growing all the time, so I have to keep giving them up in order to maintain equilibrium.
13.     What is the first book you remember reading by yourself as a child?
Maybe Blueberries for Sal? I still love that book.
14.     Do you have a favorite place to read?
Bed and beach are both good.
15.     What is next for you, publishing-wise?
I’m working on two projects: a novel about a mismatched couple who save each other and then fall apart; and a memoir about surfing, breaking my neck surfing, and returning to surfing.
16.     Do you have a favorite place to write?
A room with a view.
17.     Do you have any pets ?
I love animals, and but I’m commitment-phobic.
18.    How does your garden grow?
Great! In Northern California, I can eat out of it all year long. Right now, I’m picking broccoli, cauliflower, leeks, kale and chard. And there’s some sweet-smelling little narcissus flowers blooming, too.
19. The last thing you Googled?
Potato leek soup recipe. 
20.     What makes you cringe?
Answering questions about myself. I hope I did O.K.

Frances Lefkowitz has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize and once for Best American Essays. Her book To Have Not was named one of five “Best Memoirs of 2010” by Meet up with her at, @meetFrances on Twitter, and the Frances Lefkowitz Author page on Facebook.


  1. What a great Q&A with Fran! I love to read mysteries too and am more than a bit jealous that she is able to pick some of those cold weather veggies right now!

  2. Hi,
    I loved the idea of interviewing the author and have enjoyed reading the interview. I wish I could also interviewed the authors of the books I read but for that I will have to go to graveyard as the authors I like are dead :).


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