Alena Graedon

Author Interview: Alena Graedon

DSC_0524I am very happy to be joined today by Alena Graedon, the author of The Word Exchange. Thank you for joining me today, Alena. Can you tell us a little about what your typical writing day is like?

This semester has been so busy that I haven’t had many typical writing days. But when things are a bit calmer, my writing day starts with trying to wake up quite early (around 6am), drink an alarming amount of coffee, going into my office, and reading for a bit–maybe 30 minutes–before sitting down to work. I often read things that evoke the same sort of mood that I’m going for. (For example, I’m writing something fairly dark at the moment, and one of the things that I often read a few pages of in the morning is Roberto Bolano’s 2666.) Then I generally start off by reworking the page or so that I wrote the day before, and then I start (slowly, slowly) writing that day’s work–maybe a couple of pages. I try not to check my email or the internet until I break for lunch. Then I usually have freelance projects and other work to get to in the afternoon, and then I usually go for a run or do some other exercise in the late afternoon. (That’s what helps me keep sane and focused after being in my head all day.)


Can you tell us a bit about your book, The Word Exchange?

In a nutshell, The Word Exchange is set a few years in the future (but really, like, two). It imagines the possibility that we’ve become so integrated (including biologically) with the electronic devices that help to support and augment our realities that a virus is able to spread from a machine to human beings. The potentially fatal illness that it transmits affects people’s language and speech, garbling their words and making it impossible for them to communicate with one another. (It’s colloquially known as “word flu.”)


It’s an interesting and scary premise. How did the idea originate?

I think that it probably came from my own love affair with/dependence on/wariness about technology. I grew up at a time when we were really making this big cultural shift from print to digital technology. My friends and I used to send lots of letters to one another, and I kept a physical diary. And now it’s surprising if we can even find time to email each other. I think I became very aware of the ways in which my life really had become totally augmented and interrupted by devices and digital tools, and I wanted to think a bit more deeply about what that might be doing to my ability to connect with other people and with my own thoughts.

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