Amazon Asks: Bronwen Hruska, on "Accelerated"
By day, Bronwen Hruska publishes the works of others. As the head of Soho Press, she's published such Amazon editors' faves as A Beautiful Truth and Little Wolves. Her other job, as mom to two boys, prompted her to explore a tricky topic--the overdiagnosis of ADHD and the over-medication of boys--that's at the core of her funny, smart, chilling debut novel, Accelerated.
Published last year to critical acclaim, Accelerated will be released in paperback on Tuesday. We spoke with Hruska about her favorite authors, her Kindle, I Dream of Jeannie, her next book, and her iPhone.
What's the elevator pitch for your book?
Sean Benning is trying to adjust to being a newly single dad, which is hard enough without his son’s school pushing him to put his eight-year-old on Ritalin. He’s faced with one of the hardest decisions he’s had to make: to trust his gut which is telling him Toby is a normal energetic boy, or the professionals, who are telling him his son has ADHD. With 6.4 million kids in the US diagnosed with the disorder, it’s a decision many millions of parents have had to face. But even though the book is rooted in the disturbing phenomenon of overmedicating kids to boost school performance, at its heart Accelerated is the story of a father and son and what it means to be a family.
What's on your nightstand/bedside table/Kindle?
My bedside stack is tall, and since I tend to read several books at once, the pile diminishes slowly. My stack of the moment: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, Transatlantic by Colum McCann, Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld and Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. I’m also listening to Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien with my eleven-year-old son.
As publisher of Soho Press, I read constantly for work. So when I read for pleasure I want to differentiate it. With very few exceptions, I read manuscripts on my Kindle for work, and I read physical books for pleasure. I can read more quickly on my Kindle, which is great for getting through submissions. But when I’m reading a book I love, I want to take my time. Another perk: physical books don’t lose their charge. Plus you can read them during takeoff and landing.
What's your most memorable author moment?
Ever since I read Anywhere but Here, I have adored Mona Simpson. She is hugely talented—just one of my favorite living authors. This spring, at the LA Times Book Festival, we were on a panel together and she was amazing. When I told my son I’d spent the day with one of my favorite authors, he said, “So, it was like meeting LeBron James.” And that’s exactly what it was like. Except Mona's a little shorter. The best part of it was that she wrote me a week later to tell me she’d just finished Accelerated and that she loved it. I can’t tell you how thrilling that was.
What talent or superpower would you like to have (not including flight or invisibility)?
Well, if I can’t be invisible, I’d love to have the ability to teleport, like in Star Trek or I Dream of Jeannie (yes, I just made that reference). Either that or the ability to be in two places at once. Not sure if that's a super power, but I could get so much more done.
What are you psyched about now?
I’m psyched (and also stressed) about writing a new novel. I’m at that early phase where I’m trying to see what the world of the book needs to be--who the characters are and how the story will unfold. It’s all very hazy at the moment and I’m trying to bring it into some kind of focus. This time around I’m going at it without a big, detailed outline, since I know I’ll just have to pull the book apart and re-write it over and over again (if the first novel was any indication). I’m trying to get myself to a place where I’m okay with the fact that I may have to cut everything I’m writing now. I hate that idea, but if writing is re-writing (which for me it is), I know the story, arc, and themes will only emerge as I do the work of writing. And that just takes time.
Who's your current author crush?
I just listened to the audio book of Michael Ian Black’s You’re Not Doing it Right. He reads it himself, and I was completely charmed. The book captures the hilarity and pathos and indignities of parenthood (think Bossypants for guys). I was laughing out loud on the subway, which is embarrassing. Trust me, you don’t want to do that too much in New York City. I loved his voice--he made the writing seem effortless, which is the hardest thing to do.
What's the last dream you remember?
It was incredibly boring (and anxiety producing) and involved replacing my Blackberry with an iPhone. Seriously. And this was while I was on vacation.
Best piece of fan mail you ever got?
It was from the (now-retired) registrar from my grade school. I don’t remember her at all. But she sent me a note that said she’d seen the New York Times ad for my book, recognized the name, and bought a copy. In her note, she said she liked book--especially the sex scenes. That was just weird.
Just about anything from Dorothy Parker, but this one in particular: “I hate writing. I love having written.”
>Visit Hruska's website