Interview & Book Giveaway With Alethea Black, Author of I Knew You’d Be Lovely

MW: Tell us about you, perhaps before, behind, or beneath the pages of your work.

AB: I lead a fairly simple life. I live in a house on a lake with a wood-burning stove and a little dog (a dappled miniature dachshund) who’s sleeping beside me right now. I’m a night owl, which is too bad, because I’ve heard the sun rises over the lake. But the moon rises over it, too, so it all works out.

MW:How did you start writing, and how do you sustain your writing life?

AB: I started writing after my sister gave me a 1994 volume of The Best American Short Stories. Something about the stories in that anthology gave me a feeling of having come home. For many years I sustained my writing habit by proofreading for BusinessWeek, but I was laid off in 2009 when the magazine was bought by Bloomberg.

MW: What can you tell us about your writing process?  What helps you nurture your work?

AB: I tend to write a lot when an idea is exciting to me and a project feels urgent — then I can really take the night owl tendency to extremes — and not to write very much when things aren’t hot. This is probably the exact opposite of what you’re supposed to do, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but it’s how things seem to work for me. I find ideas everywhere; the book I’m working on now takes its opening line from something a writer named Mo told me a couple of years ago at the all-night post office across from Madison Square Garden.

MW: Can you give us a view into your world of writing short stories?  What makes the form of fiction interesting to you?

AB: I like intelligent stories with humor and heart, and that’s the kind I try to write. The thing I love about storytelling — I’ve been thinking about this lately — is that sense it can give you that everything is somehow okay, even when things are stupendously, outrageously not okay. There’s a mysterious sense of consolation that  accompanies a well-told story.

MW: Your stories link through decisive moments.  Each one looks to emerge from or respond to a slice of time that is significant for your characters.  Did you always have that link or did that develop as you wrote?

AB: I had a teacher who told us that a writer should always be asking: “Why is this night different from every other?” I’ve tried to abide by that, even when it’s not Passover. The thing that interests me are those moments in life — even if they are subtle — when everything changes.

MW: How were you able to keep the stories fresh and engaging while keeping that common quality to them?

AB: Thank you for the compliment! I tend to write about everyday people in everyday situations but I try to find that spark of the extraordinary. If I can’t keep a story fresh and engaging, it goes in the trash and I start over. Life is short.

MW: The stories take place in the Northeast mostly—with my city being a shining exception!  Do you see geography as important either for your stories in the collection or for your self as an author?

AB: Who doesn’t love Chicago? Actually, I’m not very interested in geography, and I don’t think of myself as a regional writer in any sense. When other writers start to talk about geography, that’s usually when I take a nap. The landscape that interests me is the human heart.

MW: What are you reading or about to read these days?

AB: I just read CORPUS CHRISTI by Bret Anthony Johnston; I’m partway through VOLT by Alan Heathcock; and I’m about to pre-order THE WORLD WITHOUT YOU by Joshua Henkin.

MW: Are you currently working on things you can talk about?  If so, what?  And how can my readers keep in touch with you?

AB: My agent has my next book, a short novel called THE KEY, about a woman who’s missing her dead father when a stranger in Grand Central Station hands her a key. The next next book is about two brothers, one successful and one feckless, who spend a weekend together. I love hearing from readers — it’s been my favorite part of the publishing experience. They can find me at

Now for the giveaway.  If you’re interested in getting a free copy of Alethea’s collection, leave a comment with the title of the last book you read and a sentence about what you thought of the book.  And maybe tell other people to do the same.  Leave the comment by Friday 8, 11:59p.m.  I’ll choose a winner sometime Saturday and email the winner for a mailing address.



  1. Did you doubt I’d comment? Of course not. 🙂 Last book I just finished yesterday was “Life, on the Line” by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas. Although I’m happy with 5-minute ramen, I do have a deep respect and appreciation for those who provided me with the best meal of my life (at Alinea). It was worth having to eat ramen for the rest of that month’s food budget. But more than the food, I loved reading the story of the man behind the food as well as his struggle through cancer.



    1. Leslie, am I to believe that you’ve convinced the readers of this interview not to comment? There are certainly other ways for you to access my library! You are the winner of Alethea’s collection. Congratulations. Thanks for commenting. Because I would have given myself another gift if you hadn’t.



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