As usual, I wandered in for Books at Noon around 12:15, ready to pounce with the camera in case the talk was already winding down. Only Sharma was still deeply involved with the conversation he was having with our host, the lovely Jessica Strand. And it was more of a conversation than an interview, even though the usual questions were asked. Sharma spoke directly to Strand, as if they had a mutual friend and were just getting to know each other over coffee, rather than sitting up on a stage. It wasn’t until the question and answer section that he shifted his focus to the audience.
And it was such an endearingly honest, writerly conversation. He admitted to choosing books to make himself sound smart, especially when younger (“What? It’s the same thing as picking out the most expensive purse. No one buys it because they really believe it’s the best quality leather out there. It’s just for status.”) He admitted to reading many books about Hemingway first because he didn’t actually want to read Hemingway, and being disappointed once he finally psyched himself up read his actual novels. He had my heart, right there! (He did come around to liking Hemingway’s work, though, to my chagrin)
Further, he said all the right things (for me) about the writing process. Arduous, torturous twelve years on one book. Once it finally reached the point where it “no longer annoyed” him, he sent it out, and immediately started in on a short story- it didn’t even have to be a short story, it just had to “look like” one- to keep him moving forward. After twelve years of writing, he found he had developed more “writing muscles” that made the process more rewarding. He even used the Kung fu movie montage analogy for a visual! If there was a writer in the crowd who couldn’t both commiserate and feel inspired… Well, they probably hadn’t spent over a decade on one piece!
Ideal Date: I would have to say coffee at the Citigroup Center’s Barnes & Noble, where the periodicals are conveniently displayed by the cafe. He had such a refreshingly optimistic interpretation of Cosmopolitan (Sharma: Cosmopolitan is about choosing to be happy. Strand: Cosmopolitan You mean the women’s magazine?), I feel like the conversation would be outside the box.