Should your books be shelved in the fiction or nonfiction section of the bookstore? Reilly Capps TELLURIDE, COLO.
Nonfiction. I've always been a huge exaggerator, but when I write something, I put it on a scale. And if it's 97% true, I think that's true enough. I'm not going to call it fiction because 3% of it isn't true.
Is there anything you consider to be off-limits in your writing? Emi Chang, MILILANI, HAWAII
Oh, there's an awful lot that I consider to be off-limits. I never write about me having sex. I mean, if someone talks about having sex, that's great, that's where it's at. But I would never talk about myself.
How has your family reacted to having their exploits included in your work? Beverly Fleischman CASPER, WYO.
Whenever I write about anyone in my family, I give them the story to read first. And I ask if there's anything they want me to change or get rid of. But you can never anticipate how people are going to read what you've written. You can write something with affection, but that doesn't necessarily mean that people are going to see it.
Are you ever jealous of your sister Amy? Dan Burhans DES MOINES, IOWA
No. What Amy and I do are different. Amy is an actress, and I'm not. To me, the idea of being on camera is absolutely horrible.
Has living in France affected the way you think about your childhood in America? Matt Brosseau BENNINGTON, VT.
It makes me see the United States differently, but I don't know that it makes me think of my past differently. In the United States, people are allowed to talk about money. You'll be on an airplane, and one stranger will say to another, "Boy, that's a really nice watch." And the other guy will say, "Well, it cost me $4,000." People would be horrified in France or England if you said that.
Are there things you miss about the U.S.? Matthew Machado SAN FRANCISCO
I miss canned clams. You can't get those in France. Grits and canned clams. And I miss National Public Radio. Ira [Glass] usually sends me CDs of This American Life.
I heard that part of your new book is about quitting smoking. Have you remained smoke-free? Pamela Skjolsvik BAYFIELD, COLO.
Yes, I have. I quit smoking in January of 2007. In the end, the reason I quit was so I could stay at decent hotels. Nice hotels in the U.S. went completely nonsmoking. That said, I don't suggest that anyone quit smoking. I love the smell of smoke. Cigarettes smell really good to me. They smell like an apple pie baking.
Do you enjoy meeting your readers at book signings? Jerry Kaiser, AURORA, COLO.
I do. Reading is such a solitary activity that it's rare to get to meet the people who read your books. If left to their own, people will feel like they need to say "I liked your last book." But it's embarrassing for me to hear that, so I just change the subject, and we have a little conversation.
Who makes you laugh? Carlos Farias, EL PASO, TEXAS
There's an English writer named Alan Bennett who makes me laugh. That show Extras with Ricky Gervais makes me laugh. I like that kind of uncomfortable laughter. But when it comes to reading, I'd normally rather read something that was tragic than funny.
What is the one question you've always wanted to be asked? Patricia Loureiro, LISBON
Where I graduated from college. Once you actually graduate from college, nobody ever asks you anymore where you graduated from. So, I graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago.
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