Q&A with Andrew Ladd, 2012 AWP Award Series Winner for the Novel
Sarah Katz | April 2016
What Ends (New Issues), selected by Kathryn Davis
What are you working on right now?
Most of my writing time these days is going into another novel, quite a different one from What Ends (my first)—a plottier thriller about clinical trial participants. But I’m also doing some final tinkering with a collection of linked short stories about immigration in the United States, inspired by my former day job as a paralegal. That’s mostly finished, and actually quite a few of the stories in it have already been published, in Yemassee, Isthmus, Cimarron Review… And look out for two more in Guernica and Kenyon Review later this year.
How have you or your writing changed since you received the AWP Award in 2012?
So much has changed! I was living in New York when I first heard I’d won the award. Since then I got married, moved to London, had a baby. It feels like a whole life ago. Probably the biggest thing that’s changed about my writing is that I do a lot more in the morning now, since my son Henry has me up at the crack of dawn anyway. But I hope my writing has improved, too! What Ends was generally well received, but a lot of the reviews had some (fair) criticism as well, so I’ve really tried to work on those weaknesses in my new projects.
How has the AWP Prize for the Novel affected your career?
It’s been great! Publication itself was obviously a big jump career-wise, and it’s slowly snowballed since then: first the rights sold in the UK, then the New York Public Library named me one of its Young Lions finalists, then the agent who’d sold the rights (on behalf of my US publisher) took me on as a client—and since then I’ve been getting a look in, it feels like, at places where I never did before. I got a personal rejection from the New Yorker, after so many years of sending them stuff to no response at all. And getting accepted by the Kenyon Review! I literally jumped for joy.
What advice might you have for writers submitting to the AWP Award Series?
Submit the book that you think should be published. One of the nice things about submitting to blind competitions is that you’re judged pretty much entirely on your book’s merits qua book, I think, without any baggage about salability. There were so many agents who passed on What Ends before the Award Series because they thought it was too quiet, not commercial enough, etc.—and though I was thinking about ways I might redraft to address those concerns, and would have done it if I’d had to, for the Award Series I still got to just send in the manuscript that I thought was finished. It was nice to be able to do that without worrying about all that other stuff.
Anything you want to add?
Start a writing group! When I was out of MFA land and working in a completely unrelated field, my writing group was the one thing that really kept me writing regularly. If it weren’t for them I wouldn’t have finished the collection that’s getting me so many nice credits this year. I love you, Write Club!
Andrew Ladd’s debut novel, What Ends, won the Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ 2012 Prize in the Novel, and was a finalist for the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award. His short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and has appeared (or is forthcoming) in Kenyon Review, Cimarron Review, Guernica, Apalachee Review, CICADA, and Epiphany, among others. He grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland, and has since lived in Boston, Montreal, and New York; currently he lives in London with his wife and son.
Interview conducted by Publications Assistant Sarah Katz