Q + A talking THE IMMORTALISTS with Chloe Benjamin

Q + A talking THE IMMORTALISTS with Chloe Benjamin

Q | Jessica Klahr, @jsassica:
Most novels cover only a brief period of time in the lives of one or two characters. How did you go about the daunting task of narrowing the scope of four peoples’ lifetimes down to four sections while still keeping the book regular novel length? 


A | Chloe:
It was a challenge! But I also found it helpful to know that I only had a certain number of pages for each character's life; otherwise I could have written a novel about each of them. Knowing that I had about ninety pages for each sibling kept the book from feeling overwhelming, and kept me focused on what was most important. I constantly asked myself whether the details or content I included about each sib was necessary, what kind of work it was doing.
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Q | Alexandra Goldstein, @algoldstein:
Hi Chloe! I am so in love with the Gold siblings. As a New Yorker, I’m curious: how/why did you decide to set the book in the lower east side around 1970? The time and place feel perfect and gritty, but I’m wonder how you landed there (and not 1999 Chicago, for example)!


A | Chloe:
Hi Alexandra! My own family history inspired the LES setting: my great-grandparents, Jews fleeing the pogroms, came to New York from Eastern Europe. I was fascinated by their lives (my great-grandfather, as it happens, was a tailor, which inspired Saul's shop), and the changes that happened in New York throughout the 20th century, as neighborhoods that had traditionally housed specific immigrant populations became more diverse and modern.
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Q | Kat, @Simplyalwayskat:
Do you adhere to the idea that knowing the future seals one’s fate, like a self fulfilling prophecy? Do you believe in the concept of coincidence?


A | Chloe:
I'm honestly not sure what I believe, but I'm curious about all of these ideas: fate, chance, coincidence, and so on. The book presented an opportunity to explore them, but I can't say it left me with a firm perspective of my own. After all, how can we know for sure?
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Q | Angie:
Why did you decide not to write Varya’s death? Maybe as an epilogue? 


A | Chloe:
I always knew that I wanted Varya's section to end differently than the others. As a reader, you've gone through a lot of heartache already, and I felt that what the book needed was not another death, but healing. 
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Q | Shannon Kline, @shannonrkline:
What first sparked the inspiration for this story? 


A | Chloe: 
My own anxieties! I've always struggled with uncertainty, and with not-knowing, and there's no greater unknown than death. Writing the book was, in part, a way to process and wade around in those questions.
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Q | Brenda Ruelas Carrera, @books_mommy:
What and who inspired you to start writing? Because your book is awesome!! 


A | Chloe:
Thank you, Brenda! Other writers inspired me--so many of them. I was a huge reader from the time I was a child, and I attribute much of my passion for writing to the fact that my mom took my brothers and me to the library almost every week. I read voraciously and fell in love with storytelling.
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Q | Ella Vasquez:
How does your novel separate itself from more pop-culture literature with young adults as their main audience? How important is it to tell a story of youths pursuing a life free of committed relationships, does Immortalists do both?


A| Chloe:
I hope that people of all ages and backgrounds can connect with THE IMMORTALISTS, so I actually don't see it as a book whose main audience is young adults! I'm thrilled to see all kinds of readers find their way to it. 
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Q | María Agostina Biritos, @agostinabiritos:
Do you think if the siblings had been more religious they wouldn't have believed at all in the prophecy? Do you purposely made them agnostics or atheists so they would believe, so they would think what the woman said could have some real impact on their lives?


A | Chloe:
That's an interesting question, Maria! I do think that all four of the siblings struggle in their relationship with religion, and that all are seeking some kind of belief system that will ground them in life--which, in some ways, does make them more susceptible. 
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Q | Emily Turner, @em1lyt:
What made you start writing and what keeps you writing? How do writers sort  through all the ideas that they have been hon in on one that could be a good story? 


A | Chloe:
Hi Emily! My passion gets me started and keeps me going. For most of my writing life, I worked other jobs at the same time, so you have to have a lot of independent motivation. As for your second question, this might sound funny, but I honestly don't have very many ideas! I think that's why I'm a novelist instead of a short story writer--I only have a good one every few years. 
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Q | Jessica Hulsey, @riannereads:
I would love to know what Chloe's favorite genre to read is, because it's not always the genre they write. And is that where Chloe gathers the most inspiration?


A | Chloe:
That's an interesting question, Jessica! I have to be boring and say that my favorite genre to read is the same one I write in, literary fiction, although I do love me some crossover, fantasy-tinged YA (here's looking at you, THE BOOK OF DUST), or speculative/sci-fi (adored the SOUTHERN REACH trilogy). Other writers absolutely inspire me. Out in the world, I find inspiration in other people. Human beings are endlessly fascinating to me.
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Q | Chasey, @MissDarkFaerie:
Which character do you relate to the most?


A | Chloe:
I relate to all of them in some way, but I'd say I have Klara's passion and ambition, as well as Varya's tendency toward worry and control.
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Q | Carly Tattoo, @cartatt:
Would you want to know the date of your death?


A | Chloe:
No!
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Q | Dina,  @dinaxomarie:
1.Throughout The Immortalists, your characters grapple with the notion that the woman from Hester Street could truly tell them their fate, more specifically the exact date of their death. Some, like Klara and Simon embrace this thought, and let it guide her decisions. Others, like Daniel and Varya do not put much thought into the prophecy. Ultimately,  both sets of siblings live their lives very differently based on their acceptance and perceptions of what they learned that day on Hester Street. My question is this, do you believe that our belief or how much we allow ourselves to accept a concept, such as fate, informs how we interact with the world and others? Also, if you were given the opportunity to learn the day of your death, would you take it?
 

A | Chloe:
Hi Dina, great question! I do think that the mind is powerful, and that our thoughts can shape our experience of the world and certainly our interactions. I would be too superstitious to learn my date of death for that very reason--I think I'd be weighed down by ruminating! 

Q | Dina,  @dinaxomarie:
2. At times throughout the book, Klara displays regret for convincing Simon to move to San Fransisco with her. It’s almost as if her belief altered Simon’s reality. I found myself going back and forth on my thoughts of this. If Klara never opened the door of possibility for Simon to move on and start a new life, he might not have contracted AIDS and passed away so young. However, if she didn’t, Simon never would have had the courage and confidence to live his own life, and live freely as a gay man. Do you believe that Klara did Simon a favor by altering his perception of his life, and what it could ultimately be? 


A | Chloe:
I love your thoughtfulness about this! I completely agree in that I go back and forth myself--and my hope is that readers will be able to do that for many of the novel's questions. I'd rather write a book that is open to interpretation and conversation than one that provides all the answers (after all, I don't have them myself!). 
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Q | Bader, @lust4ultraviolence:
Do you have a specific part that means a lot to you or that really made you sad in this book?


A | Chloe:
Great question! There are certain scenes I'm especially proud of--the scene of Klara's audition at the Mirage, which was quite tricky, or Varya's rather epic conversation with Luke. I felt a lot of sadness at the conclusion of each of the first three sections. I didn't want any of the siblings to die, even as I knew they had to! I also felt a lot of sorrow in writing Varya's final scene with Frida, the grief she felt and the pain that Frida is going through. 
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Q | Maxine, @glueandyarn:
What sort of things did you read/watch for research on Simon’s part of the story? (So beautiful and sad it made me cry on the bus!)


A | Chloe:
Maxine, I love to share my research materials in the hope that others will pick them up and be as moved as I was! For Simon's section, I looked at archival materials, documentaries, nonfiction, memoir, held interviews and more. A documentary that I think really captures that era and which I can't recommend more highly is WE WERE HERE. EROTIC CITY: SEXUAL REVOLUTIONS AND THE MAKING OF MODERN SAN FRANCISCO was incredibly helpful as well. 
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Q | MacKenzie, @MissUSAtoMBA:
Which was harder getting into the mystic world that the Rishika used to predict the Gold’s fate...or understanding the aspirations that drive the Golds?


A | Chloe:
I think that both were equally difficult! Knowing the history of persecution and discrimination that the Rom have faced, it was very important to me to deeply research the lives of people like Bruna Costello, and to portray her with humanity. On the other hand, understanding what drives the Golds was tricky in a different way: I wanted to make sure that they each had a different orientation toward the prophecy, a different psychology, and that took a lot of thought.
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Q | Carissa, @carissa_199:
Did you think Klara was trying to take control of her life by going out the way she did.  I felt she knew she was going to die that night, but she wanted to do it her way. 


A | Chloe:
That's an interesting way to put it! I think Klara has come to the conclusion that she must do this in order to prove that her beliefs, her worldview, are true--and, you're probably right, in order to have some sense of agency, even if it's a very dark one.

STAYING GOLD IN TULSA Emma & Karah have lunch with S.E. Hinton

STAYING GOLD IN TULSA Emma & Karah have lunch with S.E. Hinton

BRIEF: Chloe Benjamin, Author of Belletrist January Book 'The Immortalists'

BRIEF: Chloe Benjamin, Author of Belletrist January Book 'The Immortalists'