Colson Whitehead, is the author of Zone One; Sag Harbor; The Intuitionist, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award; John Henry Days, which won the Young Lions Fiction Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Apex Hides the Hurt, winner of the PEN Oakland Award.
Colson is interviewed by Kobo’s Nora Parker about his latest book, The Underground Railroad, which is an Oprah's Book Club pick.
- Whitehead’s decision to play with the quirky premise of “what if the underground railroad was a real railroad?”
- The navigation of research and how it gets interwoven into the fiction; but the fact that this is not a historical novel and that it doesn’t stick to any real world chronology
- The freeing aspect of not being beholden to reality when crafting a novel
- The manner by which the novel addresses the two opposing viewpoints and biases that take the same passage(s) from the bible and use it to either oppose or support slavery
- The choice of the opening setting in North Carolina and the different arenas for Cora to be tested, and how that allowed for the examination of different types of racism and social structures
- The concepts of racism in pre-Civil War America to the concepts of racism as it exists today in modern America
- The historic use of rendering of dialect in the dialogue between white and black characters compared to how it is done in this novel
- The music Whitehead listens to while writing, when he listens to Purple Rain from Prince and Debut Nation from Sonic Youth and how David Bowie is in every book
- How Whitehead felt about being selected for the Oprah Book Club
- The adept characterization and relationships of the kids in Whitehead’s novel Sag Harbor and how the characters evolved from inspiration from real people into their own unique fictional characters within the novel
KWL Director Mark Lefebvre talks about the concept of writers listening to music while working and then asks KWL listeners to share their own habits and practices when it comes to listening to (or not listening to) music or other ambient noises while writing.