• Birth—April 21, 1960
• Where—Phoenix, Arizona, USA
• Education—B.A., Barnard College
• Currently—lives in New York City and Long Island
For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. A regular contributor to MSNBC.com, she lives in New York and Long Island and is married to the writer John Taylor. (From the publisher.)
Her own words:
When I sat down to write The Glass Castle, there was no doubt in my mind that once the truth about me was out I would lose all my friends and my job. So far, the reaction has been the opposite. I'm just stunned. I think I've shortchanged people and their capacity for compassion. The whole experience has changed my outlook on the world. My brother and I are closer. My sister Lori and I have discussed things we'd never before talked about. I'm back in touch with people I knew in West Virginia whom I hadn't spoken to since I left. My mother wants to correct something in the book: She wants everyone to know that she's an excellent driver.
When I was growing up, I always loved animals. But it was a part of myself that I'd let go dormant as an adult. Writing The Glass Castle, I was reminded of how important animals had always been to me, and that love was reawakened. Not long ago, I rescued two racing greyhounds, Emma and Leopold, and I'm irrationally devoted to them.
When asked in a 2005 Barnes & Noble interview which book influenced her career as a writer, here is her response:
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith [is the book that influenced me the most].... It had a powerful effect on my view of the world and first made me realize how much of an emotional wallop — and comfort — a book could deliver. I read it when I was 11 or 12 and was stunned that a character created 50 years earlier seemed so similar to me. She loved her father even though he was a hopeless drunk, she lived in a rough neighborhood but found beauty in it, and she was determined to make something of her life.
If [I] had a book club, [we] would it be reading...Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I find books that have a moral and spiritual center, that speak to what is really important and lasting, hugely appealing.
Books are my very favorite gift to give. If you give a book to someone and they really respond to it, you feel you've actually changed their life in some way. I recently gave my father-in-law both volumes of William Manchester's biography of Churchill — and we had long, animated conversations about him and history and the psychology and greatness. If a book really moves me, I'll sometimes buy several copies for friends and give them out even if there's no occasion. I bought The Lovely Bones for four or five people. If someone's not much of a reader, I try to find a book that speaks to one of their passions. Whenever I'm reading a book I enjoy, I always develop a mental list of the people I want to share it with. I love it when people reciprocate; when they call me up and tell me they're reading a great book and can't wait for me to read it. That's how I heard about Gilead.
I write on a 19th-century oak table, in front of a window overlooking a wisteria-covered arbor.... [W]hen I wrote The Glass Castle, I wrote it entirely on the weekends, getting to my desk by 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. and continuing until 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. I wrote the first draft in about six weeks—but then I spent three or four years rewriting it. My husband, John Taylor, who is also a writer, observed all this approvingly and quoted John Fowles, who said that a book should be like a child: conceived in passion and reared with care.
I've been a journalist for almost 20 years and wrote one nonfiction book about the history of the tabloid press. But writing The Glass Castle was an entirely different experience. I was writing about myself and about intensely personal—and potentially embarrassing—experiences. Over the last 25 years, I wrote several versions of this memoir—sometimes pounding out 220 pages in a single weekend—but I always threw out the pages. Once I tried to fictionalize it, but that didn't work either. It took me this long to figure out how to tell the story. (From a 2005 Barnes & Noble interview.)
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