Tag Archives: Mark Haskell Smith

Mapping Olive Kitteridge

One of the best features of our Author Spotlight series is when our featured authors map a novel that has inspired them. The authors’ choices say a lot about their own writing. Who would have guessed that Hugh Howey was influenced by Battlefield Earth? Or that Mark Haskell Smith was inspired to write after reading The Talented Mr. Ripley?

This month we were pleased as punch that Susan Kietzman, our our R.J. Julia’s Author Spotlight for April, is mapping Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2009, Olive Kitteridge follows a quirky junior high math teacher who lives in a seemingly-sleepy town on the coast of Maine. However, the town of Crosby is anything but as Olive and the large cast of supporting townspeople come to realize.

The novel is one of Kietzman’s favorites, and she has great admiration for Elizabeth Strout’s writing style. “Her characters are so alive for the reader, they feel like relatives or close friends,” she says. And that makes sense. Kietzman is also known for her rich characters in The Good Life and her new novel, A Changing Marriage.

While Crosby is a fictional town, Kietzman has always had the feeling that the Strout based the small town setting on Belfast, a real town on the coast near Bangor. Many of the fictional places in the novel seem similar to real places around Belfast.

Check out Kietzman’s Olive Kitteridge map, help fill out the additional scenes and let us know how she did.

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Author Spotlight Mark Haskell Smith

I’d like to say that this month’s author spotlight was chosen because we share a love of tacos and food trucks, but that would only be partly true. Simply put, Mark Haskell Smith is one of the premier humor novelists of our time, and we’re ecstatic that he’s spending January mapping the places in Moist, Salty, Baked, Delicious and his latest novel, Raw: A Love Story.

Raw follows the whirlwind life of Sepp Gregory, a reality TV star and one of People magazine’s “sexiest men alive.” He’s about to embark on a media tour for his debut novel (not that Sepp has read the book. He lived it!). The book becomes a hit, but a respected literary critic is out to reveal the fraud. Raw mainly takes place in cultural landmarks around Los Angeles with side trips to Seattle, San Francisco, New York and the desert between LA and Vegas.

Mark is also mapping The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. According to Mark, “it’s the book that inspired [him] to become a voracious reader, which in turn helped [him] become a writer.” He went on to say that the book is “the portrayal of a completely amoral, psychologically complex and unreliable protagonist that really made me stop and say wow.”

It’s my turn to say wow. I’m consistently amazed at the places our Author Spotlight’s are continually mapping.

Follow Mark’s progress throughout January at PlacingLiterature.com and his Twitter account.