Chaperone (Moriarty)

Author Bio
Birth—December 24, 1970
Where—Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
Education—B.S.W. and M.A., University of Kansas
Currently—Lives in Lawrence, Kansas

Laura Moriarty received her master’s degree from the University of Kansas, and was awarded the George Bennett Fellowship for Creative Writing at Phillips Exeter Academy. She lives in Maine. (From the publisher.) The Center of Everything is Moriarty's first novel. Her second, The Rest of her Life, was published in 2007, While I'm Falling in 2009, and The Chaperone in 2012.

From a 2003 Barnes & Noble interview:

• There are other Laura Moriartys I shouldn't be confused with: Laura Moriarty the poet, and Laura Moriarty the crime writer. If it helps, I'm Laura Eugenia Moriarty, though I've never used my middle name professionally.

• I got my first job when I was sixteen, cooking burgers at McDonald's. I've been a vegetarian since I was ten, so it was a little hard on me. I'm also technically inept and kind of dreamy, so I frustrated the guy who worked the toaster to the point where he threatened to strangle me on a daily basis. I kept that job for two years. I gave Evelyn a job at McDonald's too, and I made her similarly unsuccessful.

• Another job I was really bad at was tending bar. I was an exchange student at the University of Malta about ten years ago. I thought I wanted to go to medical school, so I signed up to take all these organic chemistry and physiology classes. In Malta. It was terrible. The Maltese students were into chemistry. I had a lab partner named Ester Carbone. There was a rumor my instructor had his house built in the shape of a benzene molecule. I couldn't keep up. I dropped out in February, and I needed money. Malta has pretty strict employment laws, and the only job I could get was an illegal one, working at a bar. I don't know anything about mixed drinks, and I don't speak Maltese. I think I was supposed to stand behind the bar be American and female and smile, but I ended up squinting at people a lot, so eventually, I was in the back, doing dishes. That was the year I started writing.

• The Center of Everything has a few autobiographical moments, but not many. I grew up with three sisters in Montana. When you say you're from Montana, people get this wistful look in their eyes. I think they've seen too many Brad Pitt movies. I saw A River Runs Through It, which is set in my hometown, Bozeman. That movie drove me nuts: I don't think anyone is even wearing coat in the whole movie. They can't keep filming up there in August and tricking everyone. Of course, now I live in Maine.

• I have tender hands, and the worst thing in the world, for me, is going to an event that requires a lot of hand shaking. Some people shake nicely, but some people have a death grip, and it's really painful. The thing is, you can't tell who's going to be a death gripper and who isn't. Big, strapping men have shaken my hand gently, but an elderly woman I met last month almost brought me to my knees. She was smiling the whole time. I went to a hand shaking event a month ago, and I went along with the shaking, because I didn't want to look rude or standoffish or freaky about germs. But hand shaking just kills me. I'm not sure what to do about it. I went back to Phillips Exeter a month ago, and a very polite student reintroduced himself to me and extended his hand to shake. I actually tried to high five him. He looked at me like I was a crazy person. My sister told me I should take a cue from Bob Dole and carry a pen in my right hand all the time, so I might try that.

• When asked what book most influenced her career as a writer, here is her response:

It's difficult to pick just one, of course. But I will say that while I was writing The Center of Everything, I read Carl Sagan's The Demon Haunted World, and it made a strong impression on me. I only knew about Sagan from watching the Nova Channel when I was a kid, but I happened upon an essay he'd written before he died. I was so impressed I went to the library and checked out some of his books. In The Demon Haunted World, Sagan stresses the importance of skepticism and rational reasoning when considering the mysteries of the universe.

It's easy for us today to see the insanity of the witchcraft trials, but Sagan gives a sympathetic account of how frightening the world must have seemed in those times, and how quickly our ability to reason can be dismissed in the face of fear and superstition. Today, Sagan points out, we have crop circles, alien abductions, and religious fundamentalism; the book has a great chapter called "The Baloney Detection Kit," an important tool for any open-minded skeptic. What I like most about Sagan is that he seems skeptical without coming across as cynical. He looks at the vastness of the universe and the intricacy of the natural world with so much wonder and awe, and he's able to translate it to a reader who isn't a scientist, such as myself. I also noticed how he refrains from making fun or putting down his opponents; there's such a generosity of spirit in his writing. I tried to put a bit of Sagan in Evelyn, the narrator of The Center of Everything. (Author interview from Barnes & Noble.).

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