Queens Library is very excited to welcome critically acclaimed author, editor, and teacher David Ebershoff to Central Library on Saturday, November 7 at 3:00 p.m. David’s debut novel, The Danish Girl, won the 2000 Lambda Literary Award for transgender fiction and has been adapted into a major motion picture opening this month starring Academy Award-winner Eddie Redmayne. His most recent novel, The 19th Wife, is a New York Times bestseller and was made into a television movie that has aired around the globe.
In addition to his success as a writer, David teaches in the graduate writing program at Columbia University and, as Vice President and Executive Editor at Random House, has edited more than 20 New York Times bestsellers and several prize-winning books.
David was gracious enough to answer some quick questions for us before his author event.
What role have libraries played in your life and in your decision to become a writer and editor?
In my early teens, when I was hungry to learn about the world beyond my own in Southern California, I spent a lot of time devouring books, especially fiction, at the Pasadena Public Library. I discovered both freedom and myself in the stacks there.
Your website groups your accomplishments into three sections: Author, Editor, and Teacher. Which role have you found the most fulfilling?
My career—and my life, really—is about stories and words. Whether I’m writing stories, editing stories, or teaching them, I love to figure out how to tell a story, what can make a story stronger, and why stories matter in our lives. For me, writing, editing, and teaching are interconnected and feed one another. They also feed my mind and heart.
The film adaptation of The Danish Girl is receiving great advance reviews and a lot of Oscar buzz. How is the process of adapting your novels into movies? Even if someone else is writing the adaptation, is any part of it stressful?
I’ve been very lucky that The Danish Girl was adapted by such a talented group of filmmakers, including director Tom Hooper, who won the Academy Award for his mesmerizing The King’s Speech, and Eddie Redmayne, who won the Oscar this year for his brilliant performance in The Theory of Everything. Everyone working on the film wanted to tell the story of Lili Elbe to honor her remarkable life as a transgender pioneer. That’s the same reason I first wrote the book—to try to depict her story with richness and complexity, and to perhaps bring her the recognition she deserves. I hope through the film more people will understand how groundbreaking her life was.
The publishing world seems very intimidating, both to people who want to make it their career and writers who want to get published. Any words of advice for either of those groups?
For people who want to work in publishing: put yourself in that world. You might not land your dream publishing job in your first try, but put yourself in situations where you can find the doors that you want to open: working at a bookstore or a library will bring you invaluable experience and contacts, as will blogging or writing about books, and anything else that is part of the larger industry.
For writers: read a lot and write a lot. And find a good story and tell it well.
Who are some of your favorite authors? And which books are you currently reading in your downtime?
My favorite books out right now are the ones I most recently edited: Slade House by David Mitchell, Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson, and Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt. Each is a wonder. In my downtime, I’m currently reading An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser. It’s quite long and I’ve been making my way through it slowly, but relishing it. I’m also finishing Joyce Carol Oates’s new memoir, The Lost Landscape. She was one of the writers I discovered in the Pasadena Public Library when I was a teenager, and I’ve never stopped loving her stories and words.