Angela Flournoy is one of the most talked-about debut novelists in the United States today. At just 30, she burst onto the international literary stage last year with her first novel The Turner House. It tells the story of a large, sprawling family of 13 children and their old house in Detroit. Spanning nearly three-quarters of a century and several generations, the book is a portrait not only of the Turners but also of their city and heralds a major new contribution to the story of the American family.
Among other accolades, The Turner House was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and Flournoy was shortlisted for a National Book Award. She was also named a National Book Foundation ‘5 Under 35’ Honoree, a program known for introducing the next generation of writers.
Angela Flournoy answered some questions for The Echo.
Describe where you write.
I write longhand in a notebook for many reasons, but one reason is so that I can write anywhere. Outside of my home office, I enjoy writing in coffee shops, restaurants, airplanes and trains.
What book made the greatest impact on you as a child?
C S Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia were books that I read over and over. The tales of magic, adventure and intrigue hooked me on storytelling.
What author living or dead would you most like to meet, and what would you like to know?
I would most like to meet Zora Neale Hurston. I would ask her about her time as an apprentice to spiritual practitioners in New Orleans and Haiti.
Who should we be reading?
You should be reading books by women writers of colour. All of them.
What are you working on now?
I am in the very early stages of a second novel, so early that I am too superstitious to talk about it in detail.
Where do stories take you?
Stories are unique in that they can give you the sensation of walking down streets in cities you’ve never visited, and they can also take you into your own memories and within your own consciousness. Stories can take you everywhere.
What are you looking forward to at Byron Writers Festival?
This will be my first visit to Australia, and one of the things I’m most excited about is talking about books with festival-goers. I have heard that Australians are enthusiastic about books (which is not always the case in the US), so I’m looking forward to the –in-person book-nerd moments.
• Angela Flournoy will appear at Byron Writers Festival on Saturday in conversation with Chip Rolley. You can also hear her in sessions The State of the United States (Friday) with P J O’Rourke, William Finnegan and Jeffery Renard Allen, Bearing Witness: The Power of Story (Saturday) with Richard Fidler and Debra Oswald and The Americans (Sunday) with Cheryl Strayed and William Finnegan in conversation with Simon Marnie.