Barbara Kingsolver: “As a writer, I definitely choose the fast car, the free fall”

From The Writer’s Almanac:

Today is the birthday of novelist Barbara Kingsolver, who rose to fame with her first novel, The Bean Trees, about a young woman from rural Kentucky who decides to drive west toward a new life and ends up taking care of a Cherokee toddler named Turtle.

Kingsolver began her studies at DePauw University thinking she’d be a classical pianist, but then discovered how little money they made, so she switched to biology. It wasn’t until she was a graduate student at the University of Arizona that she tried writing, winning a short-story contest for a Phoenix newspaper. She kept writing and eventually had something resembling a novel, which she sent to an agent, who sold the book. Her first book contract arrived the same day she brought her first child home from the hospital.

All of Kingsolver’s novels since 1995, including The Poisonwood Bible, The Lacuna, and Flight Behavior, have landed on the best-seller lists. She’s mostly concerned with social justice, biodiversity, and the relationship of humans to their environment, which led her to move from her Tucson home to a 40-acre farm in southern Virginia.

It was in Virginia that she and her family decided to spend a year eating only local foods (except for coffee, grains, and olive oil), an experiment she wrote about in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Kingsolver and her family grew their own food, learned how to can tomatoes, and made cheese. They also had to care for and eat their own livestock. Kingsolver said, “You can leave the killing to others and pretend it never happened or you can look it in the eye and know it.”

Kingsolver rises at four a.m. every day to write. She says, “What keeps me at the wheel is the thrill of trying something completely new with each book. I’m not a risk-taker in life, generally speaking, but as a writer I definitely choose the fast car, the impossible rock face, the free fall.”

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