Chris Bohjalian

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Chris Bohjalian

Goodreads Author

in White Plains, New York, The United States



Member Since
November 2007

Chris Bohjalian is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of 21 books. His work has been translated into 35 languages and three times become movies.

His forthcoming novel, "Hour of the Witch," arrives on April 20, 2021. It's a novel of historical suspense set in 1662 Boston, a tale of the first divorce in North America for domestic violence -- and a subsequent witch trial.

His most recent novel, “The Red Lotus,” just arrived in paperback. It's a twisting story of love and deceit: an American man vanishes on a rural road in Vietnam and his girlfriend, an emergency room doctor trained to ask questions, follows a path that leads her home to the very hospital where they met. Publishers Weekly called it “a diabolical plot reminiscent of a Robin

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Chris Bohjalian Okay, here are ten random suggesstions — the last a reference to the fact I was told by a creative writing professor when I was in college that I shou…moreOkay, here are ten random suggesstions — the last a reference to the fact I was told by a creative writing professor when I was in college that I should become a banker.

1) Don’t merely write what you know. Write what you don’t know. It might be more difficult at first, but – unless you’ve just scaled Mount Everest or found a cure for all cancers – it will also be more interesting.

2) Do some research. Read the letters John Winthrop wrote to his wife, or the letters a Civil War private sent home to his family from Antietam, or the stories the metalworkers told of their experiences on the girders high in the air when they were building the Empire State Building. Good fiction is rich with minutiae – what people wore, how they cooked, how they filled the mattresses on which they slept – and often the details you discover will help you dramatically with your narrative.

3) Interview someone who knows something about your topic. Fiction may be a solitary business when you’re actually writing, but prior to sitting down with your computer (or pencil or pen), it often demands getting out into the real world and learning how (for instance) an ob-gyn spends her day, or what a lawyer does when he isn’t in the courtroom, or exactly what it feels like to a farmer to milk a cow when he’s been doing it for 35 years. Ask questions. . .and listen.

4) Interview someone else. Anyone else. Ask questions that are absolutely none of your business about their childhood, their marriage, their sex life. They don’t have to be interesting (though it helps). They don’t even have to be honest.

5) Read some fiction you wouldn’t normally read: A translation of a Czech novel, a mystery, a book you heard someone in authority dismiss as “genre fiction.”

6) Write for a day without quote marks. It will encourage you to see the conversation differently, and help you to hear in your head more precisely what people are saying and thereby create dialogue that sounds more realistic. You may even decide you don’t need quote marks in the finished story.

7) Skim the thesaurus, flip through the dictionary. Find new words and words you use rarely – lurch, churn, disconsolate, effulgent, intimations, sepulchral, percolate, pallid, reproach – and use them in sentences.

8) Lie. Put down on paper the most interesting lies you can imagine. . .and then make them plausible.

9) Write one terrific sentence. Don’t worry about anything else – not where the story is going, not where it should end. Don’t pressure yourself to write 500 or 1,000 words this morning. Just write 10 or 15 ones that are very, very sound.

10) Pretend you’re a banker, but you write in the night to prove to some writing professor that she was wrong, wrong, wrong. Allow yourself a small dram of righteous anger.(less)
Chris Bohjalian That's a wonderful question -- and in my case easy to answer.

I am a descendant of two survivors of the Armenian Genocide: my grandparents. Like so ma…more
That's a wonderful question -- and in my case easy to answer.

I am a descendant of two survivors of the Armenian Genocide: my grandparents. Like so many survivors, they took most of their stories to their graves. Oh, we know bits and pieces. But there are great, gaping holes in the narrative because some elements were, apparently, too painful to share.

For instance, my grandfather had three brothers -- and we know nothing about what happened to them. Likewise, we have almost no specifics about how my grandmother and her mother survived after her father was executed by Ottoman soldiers and their horse farm and home were confiscated.

Certainly that idea of "mystery" was integral in the tone of my novel, "The Sandcastle Girls."

But there might be one more book to write about that part of my family history. We'll see.

Thanks for asking.

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More books by Chris Bohjalian…

On April 20, 2021, the HOUR OF THE WITCH will toll

"In 1660s Boston, blue-eyed, porcelain-delicate Mary Deerfield is determined to escape her marriage after her husband, the cruel and controlling Thomas Deerfield, shoves a fork through her hand in a drunken rage. Yet unfortunate incidents—a screaming maid, a boy’s death after Mary treats him with herbs—leaves her longing not just for freedom but for her life; she could be condemned to the gallows Read more of this blog post »
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Published on November 14, 2020 06:08

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Nothing Very Bad Could Happen to You There (Literature & Fiction)
2 chapters   —   updated Dec 15, 2015 02:07PM
Description: A short story set in Manhattan in the days before The Guest Room (publication date: January 2016) begins.
Skeletons at the Feast (Literature & Fiction)
0 chapters   —   updated Nov 28, 2007 09:13AM
Description: A novel
The Water Dancer
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Mindfulness: An E...
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Chris’s Recent Updates

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How Lucky by Will Leitch
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“How Lucky is a gem: a riveting plot and a narrator who is charming, engaging, and downright inspiring. Will Leitch brilliantly juggles hilarity and horror. I loved this novel — every page.”
Chris answered Richard Wolfish's question:
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Chris Bohjalian
Email me, my friend, email me: . How are YOU?
Chris is currently reading
How Lucky by Will Leitch
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Chris added a status update: Shamelessly exploiting my Jesse to share some RED LOTUS news. (Yes, I have cheese on my head.) The thriller People Magazine called “tense and timely” is now in paperback.

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The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
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The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Pentagon by Jeff Cateau
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I read this book as research for a novel and fell in love with it. It's not merely the massive amount I learned; it's that Jeff Cateau and Michael Levin are howlingly funny and could be writing for Weekend Update on SNL or Stephen Colbert. They're th ...more
Chris rated a book it was amazing
The Resistance Network by Khatchig Mouradian
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This is the most important contribution to the study of the Armenian Genocide in years. Khatchig Mouradian brings us back to Syria in 1915 and 1916 and offers stunning new insights into both how the Ottoman Empire unleashed its genocide on the Armeni ...more
Chris rated a book it was amazing
Bath Haus by P.J. Vernon
Bath Haus
by P.J. Vernon (Goodreads Author)
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Bath Haus is riveting: a gripping thriller about how quickly a life can unravel after a single bad decision. P.J. Vernon deftly reminds us that the terrifying traumas from childhood are often but a prelude to the nightmares we will walk into as adult ...more
Chris wants to read
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
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The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis
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Utterly loved this novel -- every bit as much as I savored the TV series. Who knew chess could be so freaking tense? Also, Beth Harmon is a fascinating creation: a savant with deep scars. Charismatic and messy. Every page of the novel is alive with b ...more
More of Chris's books…
“Food is a gift and should be treated reverentially--romanced and ritualized and seasoned with memory.”
Chris Bohjalian, Secrets of Eden
tags: food

“We may talk a good game and write even better ones, but we never outgrow those small wounded things we were when we were five and six and seven.”
Chris Bohjalian, Secrets of Eden

“But history does matter. There is a line connecting the Armenians and the Jews and the Cambodians and the Bosnians and the Rwandans. There are obviously more, but, really, how much genocide can one sentence handle?”
Chris Bohjalian, The Sandcastle Girls



Topics Mentioning This Author

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The Next Best Boo...: Jodi Picoult 43 401 Apr 16, 2009 08:11AM  
Pick-a-Shelf: 2009-07 - Realistic Fiction - Post July Reviews Here 65 119 Aug 13, 2009 10:12AM  
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The Next Best Boo...: September 's Groups Reads Are..... 152 735 Sep 10, 2009 04:32PM  
“And though some days it is very hard, I try not to live for the future. And I try not to dream of the past.”
Chris Bohjalian, The Law of Similars

“As Jeremy Bentham had asked about animals well over two hundred years ago, the question was not whether they could reason or talk, but could they suffer? And yet, somehow, it seemed to take more imagination for humans to identify with animal suffering than it did to conceive of space flight or cloning or nuclear fusion. Yes, she was a fanatic in the eyes of most of the country. . .Mostly, however, she just lacked patience for people who wouldn't accept her belief that humans inflicted needless agony on the animals around them, and they did so in numbers that were absolutely staggering.”
Chris Bohjalian, Before You Know Kindness

“Though angels were easy to finds in cemeteries, she said that she didn't especially care for funereal angels and tombstone cherubs -- she wanted her angels among the living, not watching over the already dead -- and thus she scoured parks and gardens for the angels with whom, on some level, she wanted to commune.”
Chris Bohjalian, Secrets of Eden

“Sara knew that behind its locked front door no home was routine. Not the house of her childhood, not the apartment of her husband's. not the world they were building together with Willow and Patrick. All households had their mysteries, their particular forms of dysfunction.”
Chris Bohjalian, Before You Know Kindness

“He moved quickly away from her through the ring, his whole body starting forward with the big animal in two-point and then -- the horse's legs extended before and behind her, a carousel pony but real, the immense thrust invisible to anyone but the boy on the creature's back -- he was rising, rising, rising. . .
And aloft.”
Chris Bohjalian, The Buffalo Soldier

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message 17: by Nita

Nita What an honor it is to be your friend on Goodreads. I love your books, and I am looking forward to reading "The Guest Room."
I have been following your writing for years, and you are one of my very favorite authors.

message 16: by Phyllis

Phyllis I started reading your books with Midwives and have read everything I could get my hands on since. To list my favorites would not be a very exclusive list, but my favorite of favorites is Skeletons at the Feast. I just discovered Trans-Sister Radio, and was, once again, blown away by your extraordinary talent.
When are you coming to Nashville again? When I was at Parnassus Books recently, I made a special request for you to come to Salon@615. They pointed out that you had been here before (which I missed out of ignorance), but might come again with your next book. So, write fast!
And, thank you for all the pleasant hours of reading you have given us.

Jennifer Dear Mr Bohjalian,
I just wanted to tell you that I love reading your work. The Double Bind rocked me back on my (mental) heels. Skeletons at the Feast kicked off what would grow to be morbid fascination/disgust/rabid researching of the Holocaust, which had previously been just a small history fact gleaned from a required class in high school.
I just finished The Sandcastle Girls. I note the day I start and finish each book (because I eventually log them on goodreads, you see), and didn't realize until I read your author's note that the day I had begun reading said book on April 24, 2015, coincided with the Armenian genocide's centennial.
I don't believe in coincidences, so do with that what you will.
Thank you for taking the time to read my message, and thank you even more for diligently sharing the fruits of your craft with us readers.
Jennifer Engh

message 14: by Lisa

Lisa See Chris, How fun to see you here. I'm not terribly active on GoodReads, but I try to stay a bit connected.

message 13: by Sam

Sam Chris,
I sooo wanted to see you when you come to Minneapolis July 12 but I checked with the bookstore and I can't afford the cost of the lunch etc. I hope you come again sometime when I'm more able to swing it. I really would love to meet you.

message 12: by Karen

Karen I had a dream the other night that you were doing a reading at the Taco Bell in Janesville, WI. Please don't take this as an insult. I think I just so want to go to one of your readings my mind created one. However, if you should want to come to WI I will be the first in line.

message 11: by Chris

Chris Dan wrote: "Chris
i am almost finished reading the electronic edition advance of LIGHT IN THE RUINS. Once again an example of your masterful storytelling. I love the separation of timelines and the added narra..."

Thanks so much, Dan. I really appreciate your kind words.

Looking forward to seeing you three weeks and three hours from right now!

message 10: by Dan

Dan Radovich Chris
i am almost finished reading the electronic edition advance of LIGHT IN THE RUINS. Once again an example of your masterful storytelling. I love the separation of timelines and the added narrative from the killer, a good touch. The scenes in Florence bring back memories from my trip there, even the smell of the Arno; you make me long to go back.

message 9: by Edik

Your True Friend


message 8: by Chris

Chris Thanks, Susan!

message 7: by Susan

Susan Chris because, I saw your recommendation of Baker's Daughter, reading and loving, and savoring every page.

Sandra Theresa wrote: "Just wanted to say I am a big fan! Hangman was one of the scariest and most suspenseful books I've ever read! Water Witches was a great one too. I own them all and as soon as I finish the book I..."

Theresa, I found Hangman to be scary too, and I thought I had gotten to the point that things in books couldn't scare me anymore! I loved The Double Bind! I liked it even more than Secrets of Eden, & I thought it was great too!

message 5: by Matt

Matt Hoping you can make it to Nonesuch for your new book tour! Would be a huge success :D

message 4: by Matt

Matt It was wonderful meeting you yesterday here at Nonesuch! Lots of people saw your interview on '207' and have come in to buy your books.

Excited to have you here for your next release! We've got a pretty literary crowd - in fact, when you were here, one woman recognized you and was pretty starstruck! She came in again today and was gushing. haha.

Anyway, hope you're well and best of luck with your writing/touring! Enjoy your time at home (assuming you've finished the tour!)


message 3: by Keely

Keely Thanks so much for the friendship! I'm such a fan!

Eva Marie I was so happy to find you on here! I just got Midwives and can't wait to start- it looks great! Thanks for everything you do!

message 1: by Theresa (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:04PM)

Theresa Just wanted to say I am a big fan! Hangman was one of the scariest and most suspenseful books I've ever read! Water Witches was a great one too. I own them all and as soon as I finish the book I'm currently reading I'll start The Double Bind. I actually chose it for my bookclub pick, I am excited to see what everyone thinks of it.

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