Author Charlie Quimby swung by the Consortium offices today to sign advance copies of his newest novel, Inhabited, a sister novel to his earlier work, Monument Road, both from Torrey House Press. While visiting, we got to sit down with him and talk about writing, roots, and radical change.
What inspired you to write this book?
Inhabited came from two sources. Once I finished Monument Road, I discovered I had a lot more to say about that place, its culture, and the sort of colonial relationship it has with the rest of the country.
Meanwhile, I was blogging about some volunteer work I do in a Minnesota family shelter and a Colorado day center for homeless adults. I considered a nonfiction book project about homelessness, but I couldn’t find a satisfactory balance between the factual and emotional dimensions, the big forces driving homelessness and the intimate realities of people’s lives.
So I chose to dramatize the complexity of what I was experiencing and free myself from making a particular case. The values collisions that occur in Inhabited are not just about homelessness. They express a common search for belonging, for feeling secure, for overcoming our bad luck and bad choices—the stuff of novels.
What is it about the West as a setting that draws you?
I grew up there, so it’s in my bones, and fiction writers draw from that bone place.
But I also write about the region because it contains so many contradictions. The West’s beautiful, dramatic places draw people who then find out they can’t eat the scenery. It’s home to this libertarian myth of self-sufficiency, while being dependent on the federal government and outside money—tourists and extraction industries. Class warfare plays out differently there. And that landscape! You can’t spend any time in the West without thinking big thoughts about your place in creation.
How did you come to work with Torrey House?
They’re based in the intermountain region and they have a mission to conserve the earth—especially the imperiled lands of the West. We batted eyes across a crowded literary room and recognized each other as people who shared a set of values. We’d love to move lots of books but we’re even more interested in moving hearts and minds.
I’m planning for the October launch of Inhabited, and I’m excited that we’ll be doing a swing west from Minneapolis to Denver and Tacoma for Heartland, Mountains and Plains and the Pacific Northwest book shows. Right now, it looks like there’ll be bookstore stops in Utah and Colorado and the Bay Area, before I return to Minnesota. I’ll have the events schedule up at charliequimby.com as soon as the major dates are finalized.
Any sneak peeks at what you’re working on now?
Let’s just say I’m mining another claim somewhere out west. It may have something to do with how, after your first couple hundred million, you buy a ranch with perfect picture-window views of the mountains so you can pretend you’re a conservationist. I haven’t decided yet if it’s a satire or a tragedy.
That’s some pretty powerful stuff to look forward to. Thank you, Charlie Quimby, for your time and your work!
Inhabited will be published on October 11, 2016. In the mean time, find out where to purchase Monument Road and other titles here on the Consortium website.