Get to Know: Lev Grossman

December 18, 2013

Lev_Grossman_credit_Sophie_GeePhoto credit: Sophie Gee

Get to know our judge a little better. In March of this year Lev participated in Reddit’s first books subreddit AMA. He spoke about his beginnings as a writer, his novels, and how success in fiction has affected him as a journalist. Check out some of the highlights below or pop on over to the full feed and really indulge yourself. It’s wonderful. You will want to hug him.

But don’t.

How his success as a novelist has affected his other work:

Success as a novelist has influenced my work as a journalist in that I do less of it. Now I can afford to take months off at a time and just work on fiction.

It has also made me more of a diva. I do more long features now, less of the incidental short pieces. Because, you know, now I’m an artist.

Also I take more risks in my journalism now, stylistically. I try things — metaphors, weird structures, personal stuff — that I wouldn’t have tried before.

On being an honest critic:

The one iron rule I have as a critic is never lie. Never pretend to enjoy something because you think you should have — because it was fancy, or politically correct, or somebody important wrote it, or everybody else liked it, or your wife is friends with the author’s daughter, etc. And vice versa, you have to cop to loving something even if you ‘shouldn’t’ because it’s trashy or impolitic. It would have been a lot simpler for me to pan THE CASUAL VACANCY like everybody else, but the truth is I loved it.

On writing The Magicians:

When I wrote The Magicians it was as a standalone. Completely. I wrote it on spec, w/out much real confidence that it was going to get published. I didn’t even think of what might come after — somehow that would have been to jinx it. I know the ending seems cliffhanger-y in some ways, but at the time that’s really how I meant it.

There are ways in which I kind of wrote myself into a corner in The Magicians — I would have written a few things differently if I’d been planning a sequel.

His top five must-read books:


On creating characters:

“Usually — when things go well — I can kind of write my characters into existence. I nail down some basic facts about them, and then I start feeding them lines. After a while the character gets real enough to me that they start feeding me lines instead.

“But when all else fails, I rip off someone I know.”

And even, a comment about his hair:

But yes, hairless authors have a clear advantage over haired authors, because we spend less time drying our hair. We’re out of the shower, we’re at our computers. That’s 5 minutes saved right there.

You haven’t had enough, have you? Read it all, here. Thanks for being fabulous, Lev!


At The Masters Review, our mission is to support emerging writers. We only accept submissions from writers who can benefit from a larger platform: typically, writers without published novels or story collections or with low circulation. We publish fiction and nonfiction online year round and put out an annual anthology of the ten best emerging writers in the country, judged by an expert in the field. We publish craft essays, interviews and book reviews and hold workshops that connect emerging and established writers.

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