Interview with Jonathan Alter

October, 2009
Jonathan Alter

Quick Start

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?

JA: artichoke

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!

General Questions

SS: What is your birthdate?

JA: 10/6

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

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