Welcome to Project Interview!
Every Wednesday we post an interview with a creator who advertises or publishes with Project Wonderful.

Today we meet novelist Helen DeWitt!

What is the main characteristic of your work?

I'm a novelist.  My first novel, The Last Samurai, was published in 2000 - it was about a boy, son of a single mother and unknown father, brought up with the film Seven Samurai to provide male role models. I've recently published a second book, Lightning Rods, inspired by Mel Brooks' The Producers.

What does your audience feel really passionate about?

Film, languages, philosophy, statistics, acerbic one-liners.

What do you appreciate most about your audience?

Its waywardness?  A is a punk rock musician from Moscow, B is a distinguished professor of Romance languages, hard to generalize.


Who are your heroes in this area of writing? What do they do right?

This is tricky.  My online heroes don't do the kind of thing I do.  To start offline, people who inspire me include: (Film) Kurosawa, Leone, Fellini, Mel Brooks; (Art) Rachel Whiteread, Ana Pacheco, Bridget Riley, Lucian Freud, Paolo Uccello; (Literature) Calvino, Borges, Proust, Pound, Hoban; (Sociology) Erving Goffman, Pierre Bourdieu, Michel Crozier, Jean Baudrillard; (Information Design) Edward Tufte; (Philosophy) Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Mill, Russell.  Online webcomic heroes include Randall Munroe's xkcd, Ryan North's Dinosaur Comics, Joey Comeau & Emily Horne's A Softer World; I'm also a huge fan of languagehat.com, Language Log, Cosma Shalizi's Three-Toed Sloth, Andrew Gelman's Statistical modeling, causal inference and social science, Owen Hatherley's Sit Down Man You're a Bloody Tragedy, Wood's Lot. Maybe - each has an obsession and follows it come hell or high water?

How do you decide what to advertise?

Well, The Last Samurai was a guinea pig.  It was published a long time ago, but I thought I could put together an ad in the spirit of A Softer World.  (This did feel a little like stalking Joey Comeau, but he said it was OK.)  I then thought I could adapt this ad to some other webcomics whose readers seemed like people who might like the book.  I was planning to advertise my new book, but was somewhat worn down by the business of seeing it into print -- thought of faffing around on Photoshop and turned my face to the wall.  But I may yet get off the dime and launch a series of ads for the paperback.

Anything else?
Hm. I'm shocked and appalled that publishers are not advertising on PW.  WHAT are they THINKING? I guess I'd just like to add that I discovered some great webcomics in the course of trialing the guinea pig; it was fun creating ads and seeing hundreds of people check out my website; effect on sales is, sadly, locked within the bosom of Jeff Bezos.

See Helen's work here: http://helendewitt.com/dewitt/

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