Lev Grossman

How did you become a writer?

The same way Hemingway describes going bankrupt: gradually, then suddenly. I wasn't one of those precocious little children who was scribbling stories as soon as they could write. But I read everything I could get my hands on, and then, starting in college, I wrote reams of bad short stories that were never published. Later I wrote a couple of pretty-good novels that were. Then when I was 35, I finally wrote a novel I was proud of. There are lots of ways to do it, but that's how I did it. If you can do it quicker and less painfully and more profitably, definitely do that.

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

No teachers. I never took a writing class. Partly because I was rejected from all the MFA programs I applied to. But books: I study them very, very closely. The Sun Also Rises, Ulysses, Brideshead Revisited, Mrs. Dalloway. The Corrections. And on the genre side, The Once and Future King (hot tip: describe the past like it's the present), Larry Niven's Warlock stories, Fritz Leiber, Piers Anthony, the late Anne McCaffrey, Susanna Clarke, and above all C.S. Lewis. Along with T.H. White, he's one of the first fantasy writers who described fantasy using the language of a realist -- not full of sparkles and wonderment and special effects, but simply, clearly, concretely, as if it were actually happening.

When and where do you write?

Whenever and wherever I can. I have a full-time job and two young kids. So mostly in my study, but also on the train, at work, wherever I can string together a few uninterrupted minutes.

What are you working on now?

A new novel -- the third book in the Magicians trilogy. And also a couple of side-projects that I can't talk about yet. 

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

Not really. When you only have five or six hours a week in which to get your books finished, writer's block becomes a luxury you can't afford. I'm not really complaining. That kind of pressure focuses the mind in wonderful ways.

What’s your advice to new writers?

Read everything. If you haven't read everything, you'll never be able to write anything. Other than that, my advice is, don't listen to other writers. I don't mean don't take advice. Just don't listen too much. Writers have a bad habit of talking about how much we're writing and how well it's going and where we're appearing and how many words we wrote today and so on. Fuck 'em. If you listen to too much of that guff, you'll start to think you're the only person in the world who doesn't have a Guggenheim or whatever. But inside we're all weeping with despair and frustration, same as everybody else.

Lev Grossman is the author of four novels, including the New York Times bestsellers The Magicians and The Magician King. He is also the book critic for Time magazine.