Interview with Jonathan AlterOctober, 2009
SS: How would you describe your life in only 8 words?
JA: My goals: Work Hard. Be Nice. Keep perspective.
SS: What is your motto or maxim?
JA: I don't like mottos but believe in staying skeptical yet idealistic.
What Readers want to know...
SS: How would you describe perfect happiness?
JA: A day on vacation with my wife and our three kids.
SS: What’s your greatest fear?
JA: Dying of cancer (I'm a cancer survivor)
SS: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
JA: Skiing on a beautiful day with good snow.
SS: With whom in history do you most identify?
JA: Franklin Roosevelt
SS: Which living person do you most admire?
JA: Nelson Mandela
SS: What are your most overused words or phrases?
JA: "But" and "hey"
SS: What do you regret most?
JA: Intentional or unintentional unkindness
SS: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
JA: Photographic memory for names and faces.
SS: What is your greatest achievement?
JA: My kids.
SS: What’s your greatest flaw?
JA: Hubristic unthoughtfulness
SS: What’s your best quality?
JA: Friendliness and seriousness of purpose
SS: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
JA: Barack Obama
SS: What trait is most noticeable about you?
JA: My intense interest in politics and history.
SS: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
JA: Atticus Finch
SS: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
JA: Tony Soprano
SS: If you could meet any historical character, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
JA: I'd ask Abraham Lincoln about his childhood, which is not well understood.
SS: What is your biggest pet peeve?
JA: Lousy customer service.
SS: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
JA: Watching funny movies.
SS: What’s your fantasy profession?
JA: President of the United States
SS: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
JA: Sense of humor, decency, insight
SS: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
SS: What are your 5 favorite songs?
JA: "Yesterday," "Good Golly, Miss Molly," "You're So Vain," "Sweet Baby James," "Imagine"
Questions About Books and Writing
SS: Who are your favorite authors?
JA: Just a few of them: Robert Caro, Taylor Branch, David Halberstam, David Donald, Geoffrey Ward, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Philip Roth, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut, John Fowles.
SS: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
JA: I like parts of different books but don't have a top five.
SS: Is there a book you love to reread?
JA: No. There are too many new ones I haven't read.
SS: Do you have one sentence of advice for new writers?
JA: Write like you're writing a letter to your aunt.
SS: What comment do you hear most often from your readers?
JA: Your book is so readable!
SS: What is your birthdate?
SS: What were your previous occupations?
JA: My current and previous occupation: journalist.
SS: What was/is your favorite job?
JA: writer and editor at The Washington Monthly
SS: Where did you go to high school and/or college?
JA: Francis W. Parker, Phillips Academy, Andover; Harvard College
SS: Name of your favorite composer or music artist?
JA: Paul McCartney
SS: What is your favorite movie?
JA: The Killing Fields
SS: What is your favorite television show?
JA: The Colbert Report
Get more on Jonathan Alter at SimonandSchuster.com