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Writing Fiction, with Susan Choi
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With Susan Choi, author of the novel A Person of Interest


"Professor Lee, an Asian-born mathematician nearing retirement age, would seem the last person likely to attract the attention of FBI agents. Yet after a popular young colleague becomes the latest victim of a serial bomber, Lee's detached response and maladroit behavior lead the FBI, the national news media, and even his own neighbors to regard him with damning suspicion.

Amid campus-wide grief over the murder, Lee receives a cryptic letter from a figure out of his past. The letter unearths a lifetime of shortcomings toward his dead wife, his estranged only daughter, and a long-denied son. Caught between his guilty recollections and the scrutiny of the murder investigation, determined to face his tormentor and exonerate himself, Lee sets off on a journey that will bring him face-to-face with his past and that might even win him redemption."

Novelist Susan Choi likes prickly, difficult characters. In this fascinating interview, she explains why.

Susan Choi was born in South Bend, Indiana, and raised there and in Houston, Texas. She studied literature at Yale and writing at Cornell, and worked for several years as a fact-checker for The New Yorker.

Her first novel, The Foreign Student, won the Asian-American Literary Award for fiction, and her second novel, American Woman, was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize.

With David Remnick she co-edited the anthology Wonderful Town: New York Stories from The New Yorker, and her non-fiction has appeared in publications including Vogue, Tin House, Allure, O and The New York Times and in anthologies including Money Changes Everything and Brooklyn Was Mine.

A recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, she lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, Pete Wells, and their sons Dexter and Elliot.

Please join Susan Choi and host Paula B. as they discuss:

  • Whether protagonists need to be likeable
  • Whether protagonists of advanced years are rare in literature
  • Why she relies so heavily on description
  • Why much of the story is told through flashbacks
  • How she got the FBI to help her research the story.

Interviewee: Susan Choi
Host: Paula B.
Date: November 2, 2008
Running time: 38:48
File size: 19 megabytes
Rating: G
Susan Choi's Web site:

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