One of the founding editors of MAKE Literary Magazine, Michael Zapata’s debut novel is The Lost Book of Adana Moreau. It has received rave reviews from numerous publications, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Publishers Weekly, and more.
What would you most like people to know about your latest book, The Lost Book of Adana Moreau?
It’s about those of us who are exiled, parallel universes, and storytelling as the infrastructure through which we understand our lives.
The book mixes its internal reality with another “story within the story” and jumps back and forth in time, how much of a challenge was it to make the different worlds and plots come together?
Something I love about Latin American literature is that it often plays with this internal structure of “stories within stories.” So, while I tend to write sentence-by-sentence without too much planning, I’m sure this structure emerged in part because I’m happily influenced by Latin American literature. That said, once I was aware of the structure after the first draft, I wanted to live in it as much as possible.
It also touches on a lot of real-world themes, what made you want to tackle these specific subjects?
When people tell stories, they paint a portrait of themselves – their family, obsessions, domestic lives, and struggles are revealed. Largely, in The Lost Book of Adana Moreau, people are exiled and altered – both personally and historically – because of capitalism and empire. It’s a powerful thing when people become aware of this.
What are you working on now?
A novel about an Ecuadorian ecologist who becomes lost in the Amazon and her son, a census taker in Chicago in the year 2050.
What are you reading?
I just finished Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming by László Krasznahorkai, translated by Ottilie Mulzet, an extraordinary and strange masterpiece. I also recently finished The Everlasting by Katy Simpson Smith (out March 24, 2020), an elegant and absolutely heartrending exploration of faith, love, and 2,000 years of civilization.
You are one of the founding editors of MAKE Literary Magazine, what is it that you look for in a great story?
A story that gives me the sense that I’ve stumbled upon something extraordinary, entirely original, or vigorous. Often, I was aware of this by the first page.
What are you watching?
I’m really excited to catch up on new seasons of The Expanse and Dr. Who.
What are you listening to?
Lately, a lot of Ezra Furman, Rebirth Brass Band, and Ana Tijoux
Where is your favorite place to write?
Lately, with a growing family, I’m learning to write wherever/whenever there is a little time. But optimally, I like writing at my desk at home, which is covered in books and above which is a photograph of Studs Terkel hailing a taxi on Wabash Avenue in Chicago.
What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for a book?
The founding history of New Orleans, which in itself, is like a parallel universe. A good starting place for readers would be to pick up The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square by Ned Sublette.
Do you rewrite passages over and over or are you generally pretty happy with what you’ve written after the first time or two?
When writing, I try to follow Italo Calvino’s personal motto as much as possible: festina lente, hurry slowly.
Did you visit the library a lot growing up? Do you now?
Yes! I was a restless, hyper child and the library and its labyrinth of books significantly calmed me. Now, as a parent, I go quite often to the Sulzer Regional Library near my house in Chicago. I love spending time there with my children.
Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
2666 by Roberto Bolaño completely altered the way I think about fiction. It exponentially expanded what I thought could be possible in one book. It’s a meteoric, apocalyptic masterpiece and, in my humble opinion, it significantly transformed 21st century literature.
What little known book do you wish everyone would read?
I’m going to cheat a little here with two books. The Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera, which is definitely known, but never known enough, and which I find myself recommending every chance I get. Also, (intentionally blank) by Thomas Mundt, a collection of brilliant and rebellious satirical short stories.