Author Features

MEET: Malka Older author of “The Mimicking of Known Successes”

Malka Older is a writer, aid worker, and sociologist.

Last Updated on March 3, 2023 by BiblioLifestyle

The Mimicking of Known Successes by Malka Older

What was the last book that you read that you’d now recommend?

The Blue, Beautiful World, Karen Lord.  

Have you read any classics lately that you were reading for the first time?

Depends on how we define classics, I suppose, but I do have De la terre à la lune by Jules Verne cued up to read for the first time.

Do you re-read books   And if yes, what was your last re-read?

I re-read all the time. I recently reread the Dorothy Sayers books (useful for my current series of Golden Age-inspired detective stories), Karen Lord’s previous books to get ready for her new ones, and KJ Charles’s Unfit to Print, which is also a romance with a mystery to it.

What are your go-to genres?

I read a range of including mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, romance, “literary”, historical, YA, and sometimes even non-fiction.

What is your favorite childhood book?

If you had asked me as a child, I probably (depending on the age) would have said Lord of the Rings, but now the ones I like best on rereading are Watership Down and The Pushcart War.

What books are on your bedside table right now?

At night (most of the time, but especially at night) I read ebooks. At the moment, I’ve got in my tbr stack Kate Atkinson’s Shrines of Gaiety, a Patricia Wentworth Miss Silver mystery, Nimona, Jodi Taylor’s Doing Time, Denise Mina’s Conviction, and a bunch of ARCs: That Self-Same Metal by Brittany N. Williams, The Jinn-Bot of Shanitpor by Samit Basu, and the West Passage by Jared Pechacek. And lots more. Because they’re ebooks.

Do you bookmark or dogear your page in a book?

Honestly, I read almost entirely ebooks now, but for physical books, I let it fall open to the page. It works surprisingly well.

What is your ideal reading setting?

Definitely, there should be food involved, as well as probably tea, a comfortable place to sit, and no interruptions. I once read a book cover-to-cover almost exactly over the duration of a twelve-hour flight, and it was pretty satisfying.

Tell us about your favorite indie bookstore?

Since I’ve lived in a lot of different places, I have a number of them – Harvard Book Store, Porter Square Books, Politics and Prose – but for this, I’ll pick Loyalty Books, with two stores in the DC area. They have great recommendations and do wonderful events with (the last time I did one in person there) cake.

Malka Older's favorite bookstore

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

Really just the feeling of reading a book and inhabiting an entirely different experience for a while was very powerful at a young age – and then, beyond that, talking about books with other kids who had a similar experience, and sharing that, feeling a community around it. It’s amazing.

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

The first time I was in London, when I was in my first year of college, my friend and I went to Westminster Abbey (there are a lot of writers buried there). We also went to 221 Baker Street, come to that. 

Where do you get most of your writing and editing done?

I have a standing desk, but I tend to migrate during a day between that, the table, and sometimes the sofa.  

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Energize! I mean, eventually, it gets tiring too, but I’ve found that staying up most of the night on a really good writing jag leaves less of a hangover than most varieties of insomnia.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

So. Many.

Do you read your book reviews?  How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I tend to read reviews that I get sent or tagged in, or that I find which look like they’re good or decent. I don’t go out of my way to read every review on Goodreads or any bad ones. But I find that if there are enough good reviews, the bad ones don’t bother me too much. No book is for everybody, so as long as some people love my book, I’m okay with other people not liking it.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Hm. It would depend on which age of a younger self, but probably not to be discouraged.

When you’re not reading or writing, what are you doing?

Eating, walking, puzzles (crossword, other word, jigsaw), biking, traveling, teaching… 

What are your three favorite things right now?

Things like…physical things? Or things like general concepts? I don’t know, I have difficulty choosing favorites, maybe because I am very fond of variety. 

Your favorite travel destination and why?

Yeah, again, I have trouble with this. There are a lot of places that I like to go repeatedly, but not one that I put over the others. Usually I want to go to a place I haven’t been to recently.

What’s your favorite meal and go-to drink order?

Argh, uh, really context-dependent. I like so many different meals and it depends on what I’m in the mood for and, again, what I haven’t had much of recently.

Malka Older's favorite food

What six people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?

I’m going to try not to overthink this. Only dead, though, the living I can invite over any time. Ursula Le Guin, Hannah Arendt, Nina Simone, Jorge Luis Borges, Octavia Butler, José Martí.  

If a movie was made of your life, what genre would it be, and who would play you?

Gosh I really have no desire to contemplate a movie in which someone chosen and made-up to look sort of like me but more like mainstream values of beauty acts in a version of my history made smoother and with less nuance and doubtless fewer other people and ugh, no.  

What’s the last TV show or movie you watched that was really good?

Our Flag Means Death.

You have to sing karaoke; what song do you pick?

Hmmmmmmm good question, I used to sing karaoke quite a lot when I lived in countries where that was a common social activity, but that was a while ago and I think I need to update my catalog. Maybe some Lizzo? 

Now I want to go sing karaoke.

If you were being taken to a deserted island and could only bring one book, what would it be?

OH NOOOOO it’s the ultimate favorite question! Hngngng what’s the longest decent work of fiction? Maybe I could find an omnibus of something?

The Mimicking of Known Successes by Malka Older

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