(Photo courtesy of Syracuse Post-Standard, Mike Greenlar)
The Rosamond Gifford Lecture Series kicked of its 15th season last Tuesday evening. Eight members of my book club were among the 2000 gathered to hear what Khaled Hosseini would say as he sat with his friend, Iranian author Firoozeh Dumas (Funny in Farsi), for the 90 minute conversation. Topics included his previous books, the writing process, his recent trip to Afghanistan, his next novel, and even how he met his wife! There was also time set aside for audience questions.
Dumas started the conversation by making reference to the early days of their friendship. When Hosseini recalled how they spent evenings trying to figure out ways to get book clubs to read their books, the audience erupted in laughter. How times have changed! While writing The Kite Runner, Hosseini, a medical doctor, was working full time as an internist. He would rise before 5 AM and write for a few hours before seeing patients. The early hours were never a problem. Hosseini was excited about his writing. He couldn't wait to get back to his characters and see what would happen next.
Writing is now a full-time occupation. When asked about the pressure of two previous bestsellers, Hosseini talked about getting into a "mental bunker" and "walking the streets with his character". What happens with the book then becomes irrelevant. He sits at the computer in a "questionable state of hygiene" and, on the best days, finds there is no filter between his thoughts and the computer.
Hosseini spoke of writing many drafts for each novel, and likened it to moving into a house. The moving van drops off all your stuff, but it takes a long time to rearrange the furniture and hang the pictures before you're finished and ready to receive guests.
A good deal of time was spent on political, rather than literary, topics. Hosseini was very animated, almost always talking with his hands. This wasn't surprising considering he had recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan (where he could not use his name). Hosseini works as a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador and has established a charitable foundation to benefit organizations working with women and children.
Hosseini was reluctant to say much about his third novel. Two stories have been discarded (both around 80 pages), but he has hit upon a third and feels this idea will stick. He would give no hint about the plot, but did mention the inspiration came from this photograph that appeared on the cover of National Geographic magazine many years ago. No publication date was mentioned.
Our group was energized, to say the least, at the end of the evening. We hated to get into two separate cars for the drive back to our town. We wanted to continue talking together! The November lecturer will be Geraldine Brooks, and I'm sure we'll be going out for coffee afterwards.