Interview With Barbara Kingsolver

The Writers Write Interview – Barbara Kingsolver

In this post, we share our interview with Barbara Kingsolver. The American author was our guest at an event in Johannesburg, South Africa.

We enjoyed hosting American author, Barbara Kingsolver, whose most famous books include The Poisonwood Bible;  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle;  The Lacuna; and her latest novel, Flight Behaviour.

Barbara was in Johannesburg on one of the hottest days of the year. She did not let the heat or her hectic schedule affect her. She says, ‘I believe in passion. It’s not work, it’s love. I do the thing I have to do.’ Her love for writing, travel and the world shone through her answers. She was gracious and charming and her fans adored her.

The unrelenting heat allowed us to talk immediately about climate change – the subject of her latest book – Flight Behaviour.

As she says, ‘No one wants to talk about climate change. The human animal is not equipped to deal with the suffering of millions or large scale disasters. You can read about or see it on the news, but the novelist’s trick is to bring it closer to home – to make people care about six or seven characters. It’s a honest trick though.’

The Writers Write Interview With Barbara Kingsolver

Author: Barbara Kingsolver
Date of Birth: 8 April 1955
Date of Interview: 10 February 2015
Place: Winehouse, Ten Bompas Road, Dunkeld, Johannesburg
The BookFlight Behaviour

Interview With Barbara Kingsolver

1. Who is your favourite hero of fiction?

Harriet Vane

2. What is your most treasured possession?

My first edition of Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

3. Which living person do you most dislike?

I can’t name names, but they may have something to do with Amazon.

4. What is your greatest fear?

Being useless.

5. Who or what has been the greatest love of your life?

My children – Camille and Lily.

6. What is your greatest regret?

That I waited this long to come to South Africa.

7. If you could choose to be a character in a book, who would it be?

Harriet Vane, (the fictional creation of Dorothy L. Sayers) – so that I could have sex with Lord Peter Wimsey.

8. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?

Definitely, Middlemarch. It is a book about everything and I read it every few years.

9. What is your favourite journey?

This one to South Africa. I am so blessed to be able to be here. I have spent the first two days before the tour started touring Soweto and Maropeng with my husband. We have loved being here.

10. What is your favourite quotation?

‘The arc of the moral universe is long and progress is sure.’ ~Dr Martin Luther King

11. Dogs or Cats? Which do you prefer?

Dogs. They love you back. P.S. I’m allergic to cats.

12. What do you most value in a friend?


13. What quality do you most admire in a woman?


14. Which book that you’ve written is your favourite?

The Lacuna. It was the hardest to write – from the beginning to the end it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. It was also the novel where I most reveal myself through the viewpoint of the narrator, Harrison William Shepherd.

15. What are your favourite names?
  1. Dellarobia Turnbow
  2. Ovid Byron

16. What do you do as a hobby?

I knit. I have my own sheep and I literally sheer the sheep and knot sweaters for friends and family from scratch.

17. Which are your three favourite books?

  1. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  2. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
  3. ? I’m waiting to find the third one.

18. Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?

When I lie down and can’t go to sleep because I’m thinking about something. I know I have to write about the things that keep me awake at night.

19. What is your Writing Routine?

I write every moment that is humanly possible. I write every day and every night. The only discipline I lack is the discipline is to quit.

20. What are your Top Writing Tips?

  1. Quit smoking in the hope of growing old. It takes a long time to write. People go to books for wisdom and older authors tend to have more of it.
  2. Notice. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. If you’re talking about it or thinking about it, I’m not so sure. Writing is ninety-eight percent work and two percent magic.
  3. Plot comes first. The plot is the architecture of your novel. You wouldn’t build a house without a plan. If I wrote without a plot, it would just be a pile of bricks. Characters are your servants. They must serve your plot.
  4. Pay attention to your passions. They are the key to starting and finishing the book you are meant to write. I don’t believe in talent. I believe in passion.
  5. Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.
  6. You can do hard things. When I wrote The Poisonwood Bible, I would practice writing one scene from the viewpoint of each of the four daughters – until their voices started to sound authentic.
  7. It’s a good idea to set yourself a daily word count. I am happy with 1 000 words a day.
  8. I research a novel six ways to Sunday. I don’t want to lie to the reader; I want you to trust me.

Follow this link for more photographs from our Dinner with Barbara Kingsolver.

Visit Barbara’s website to find out more. Follow Barbara on Facebook .

With thanks to Anthony Ehlers for the extra notes and quotations.

Interviewer: Amanda Patterson.

If you want to read more of our interviews, click here

Posted on: 12th February 2015