Two of your characters suffer from sleepwalking. Are you, or is anyone close to you, a sleepwalker?
I sleepwalked only once, in college after I’d been up working on a paper for several nights in a row. I went to bed, but I was worried about a friend of mine who’d gone out that night— I knew she was similarly sleep-deprived. I woke up in the middle of a frat party, wearing a plaid pajama set and asking for my friend. I haven’t sleepwalked before or since, but it was a pretty scary experience. Wouldn’t recommend.
Animals play important, and varied, roles in the book. What roles have pets played in your life?
Probably if there’s one thing that should be written on my headstone, it should be “animal lover.” I’ve always felt such a deep connection to animals, and part of the fun of writing the book was expressing that love through Elvis’s knowledge and obsession with animals.
Have you ever done something rebellious/activist like Lizzie does?
I’m pretty much a Hufflepuff to be honest, I like to follow the rules.
Have you ever made a rabbit cake?
My mom made them growing up sometimes, always for Easter, so I grew up with a rabbit cake pan. I’ve made a few rabbit cakes in the years since, but am about to make a lot more…Many of the bookstores I’m visiting on the tour are allowing me to bring a rabbit cake — so if you hate books, just come for the cake!
RC is funny enough to cause a stitch in the side, and sad enough to steal your breath. Can you please talk about the role of humor in grief?
I come from a family who finds the humor in all uncomfortable moments. We’re jokesters. At my grandfather’s wake, when I was sixteen, my uncle put my new boyfriend into a headlock. They were right next to the open casket. That kind of thing really gets me. Laughing, and making other people laugh, has always been my way of coping and connecting. I think that is a way that the Babbitt family is like my own.
I read that you earned your MFA at the University of Alabama. An MFA program is a commitment; when did you realize you were a writer?
It wasn’t until my final semester of my senior year of college, when I took Christopher Kennedy’s class. [He] introduced me to George Saunders, Aimee Bender, weird stories that set my brain on fire. He told me what an MFA degree was (I had no clue!) and also about writing conferences. After that, it was MFA or bust.
RC is your first published novel. What is your favorite part of the process now that you have an insider’s perspective?
My favorite part is making new friends… I’ve recently moved to a new city (Providence) and that’s always a big and scary transition, building a new community. Someone just followed me on twitter because of the book, and I found out he lives in Providence too — so we had drinks earlier this week. I’m not sure if that really offers an insider’s perspective, and maybe I’m just a little cornball, but that’s the best part for me and also something I didn’t really expect.
I hear you are also a writing teacher. If your students take only one thing away from your class, what would you like it to be?
Keep sharing your work with others — if you keep it to yourself, you can’t have any fun with the goddamn thing.
What books are you currently reading?
I recently finished The Mothers by Brit Bennett, which was out-of-this-world good. And I just picked up Emily Fridlund’s The History of Wolves at my local bookstore (Books on the Square in Providence), but I haven’t cracked it yet — I heard it’s great from people I trust.
I know you are also a former bookseller. What books did you recommend the most as a bookseller?
I was a staff pick dynamo, I gotta say. I’m not sure which staff pick sold the most, although I guess I did staff pick The Goldfinch when it first came out so there’s an easy answer. I think God of Animals by Ayrn Kyle deserves more readers, and I love the YA novel No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale. And I’m a huge fan of Rufi Thorpe and Megan Mayhew Bergman.
If you could offer a piece of advice to yourself at Elvis’s age what would it be? At Lizzie’s’? At their father’s?
Oh god, at Elvis’s age, I would tell her that middle school will end one day. At Lizzie’s age, I would tell her that high school will end one day. And at Frank Babbitt’s age, I would tell him not to forget what it was like to be that young — although I think Frank Babbitt had high school pretty easy. He was the quarterback.
I hear that you are working on your next novel, Driver’s Ed, but I also read that you used to write a comic. Is there any chance of seeing a published graphic novel of T-rex & Bunny-wunny-wunny? (Because, I would sooo read that!)
Haha, well…my husband agrees with you, he’s cheering right now. Never say never, but I’ll quote my high school art teacher on this one: “Annie, you’re a very good writer. You should be a writer.”