Life hasn’t been the same for Marshfield native Erin Morgenstern since “The Night Circus,” a story of dueling magicians under a phatasmogorical big top, was published last fall. Adoring reviews, killer sales, and a big fat film deal quickly followed. She reads at Brookline Booksmith Tuesday night at 5 p.m. Expect a circus, literally.
BOOKS: Have you been able to read during the whirlwind of promoting your book?
MORGENSTERN: Yes, thanks to all the traveling. At home I don’t read much because I’m trying to write or I’m bombarded with requests. I’m on my way to California tomorrow. On such a long flight, I can finally read.
BOOKS: What are you taking?
MORGENSTERN: I haven’t decided yet. The two front runners are “Case Histories” by Kate Atkinson and “Her Fearful Symmetry” by Audrey Niffenegger. I was looking for a nice fat novel but in paperback.
BOOKS: Are you largely a novel reader?
MORGENSTERN: I am 95 percent fiction. I am trying to read more nonfiction, but I find it rarely keeps my attention. I just read “Imagine” by Jonah Lehr, which I found fascinating. I realized that the reason I have had trouble writing recently is because I haven’t been relaxed. To have creative ideas, your brain has to be physically relaxed. This gave me an excuse to let myself go into input mode. I want to go to museums, see movies, read books, and not produce anything myself.
BOOKS: What books have you read for “input”?
MORGENSTERN: My new book is a detective novel so I went on a huge Dashiell Hammett kick. I have a big literary crush on him. I have trouble picking a favorite of his. I’d say, “Red Harvest” or “The Glass Key.” I’m also working my way through all of Raymond Chandler’s books. I just got an early copy of James M. Cain’s “The Cocktail Waitress.” I am also reading more poetry because I read that the best crime writers are poets. I have a few volumes of poetry and will read pages at random. I have a T.S. Eliot anthology. I just got the “The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson” and recently picked up a tiny, lovely book by Mark Haddon, “The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea.” Even the title made me happy.
BOOKS: Did you go through a similar phase for your first book?
MORGENSTERN: Not as intentionally, because I was working on that book for so long. I did have books that were big influences, such as Susanna Clarke’s “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell,” Christopher Priest’s “The Prestige,” and a book I read in college, which is one of my all-time favorites, “Einstein’s Dreams” by Alan Lightman. It’s the reason I still don’t wear a watch.
BOOKS: How did having a school librarian for a mother influence you as a reader?
MORGENSTERN: It’s why I compulsively buy books now. I always had to give them back to the library when I was a child. I wanted to keep them. Right after college I started accumulating. I was a terrible on my book tour. I acquired 100 or so books. I stacked them in piles around my apartment, but I try to keep them neat. I have dozens on my “to read” list, which can overwhelm me and make it hard to pick a book. Sometime I pull things off the shelves and read first pages until something makes me want to turn the page.
BOOKS: Any other tricks for picking what to read?
MORGENSTERN: Sometimes I carry books around for a while before I even start reading them. I did that with “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, which I ended up loving. I brought it from room to room with me for a couple days. I put it on my coffee table, then on my night table, so I could get to know it essentially.