Today's guest is Portland-based author, teacher, and mom, Karen Russell. I first talked with Karen last June, when her most recent book Orange World and Other Stories, came out in hardcover and digital editions. That was for KBOO’s Between the Covers program. And you can still stream/download the interview on our website.
We then had her back, on Mr. Jones’s Neighborhood, along with Portland-based writers Kimberly King Parsons, Lidia Yuknavitch, and Margaret Malone for our all-star short story summit in January, just before the novel coronavirus hit. That show was one of the high points of my time on the radio. By the way, I’d feel much better if it were short-story coronavirus, rather than novel coronavirus. Could trim at least a few months off the length of the pandemic. In any case, Orange World was just released in a paperback edition. So I invited Karen back to talk a little about the book, and also how she’s been doing while sheltering in place. And, surprisingly enough, she accepted.
I should first tell you a little about Karen, if you don’t already know her work. Orange World is Karen’s fourth book, following the novel Swamplandia!, the novella Sleep Donation, and two collections of short fiction – St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and Vampires in the Lemon Grove. Swamplandia! was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, winner of the New York Public Library Young Lions Award, and one of The New York Times’ Ten Best Books of 2011. Karen has received a MacArthur Fellowship, that’s the famous “genius grant”, and a Guggenheim award. She’s currently the Endowed Chair of Texas State University’s MFA program. Karen was born and raised in Miami, Florida, and now lives here in Portland. And, I have to say, she’s one of the kindest and funniest humans I’ve had the joy to interview.
The initial plan was to talk with Karen for about 20 minutes or so, and then play the interview we did last year, when Orange World was first published. But we had such a fun time talking, we went for closer to 45 minutes, and I just couldn’t bear to cut anything. I hope, after you listen, you’ll feel the same way. So let’s get to it, and if there’s time, we’ll play an excerpt from our June 2019 conversation to close things out.
Photo of Karen Russell courtesy of Dan Hawk