Karen Thompson Walker has had an earth-shaking year in 2012. A former book editor herself, Walker’s first novel The Age of Miracles debuted to excellent reviews (including an A– grade from EW) and will likely make it onto several year-end best lists. The novel follows an 11-year-old narrator named Julia, who comes to terms with a subtle but disastrous apocalyptic event: The world’s rotation on its axis has slowed down; days have gotten longer, which leads to all sorts of disturbing changes, both on a global scale and in deeply personal ways for Julia. The paperback edition comes out Jan. 15, and we have an exclusive look at the new cover below. Plus, Walker talks about her big year and gives an update on the possible movie adapation.
Did you ever think your debut novel would become such a big success?
I was honestly preparing for the exact opposite. My experience working in book publishing taught me to brace for disappointment at every stage. I was acutely aware of just how hard it is to sell a novel, especially for a first time author, and how many worthy books never get the recognition they deserve, so I really tried to keep my expectations low. I feel grateful for (and still a little surprised by) the good things that have happened for the book.
This isn’t your typical apocalyptic novel — it’s a bit quieter, and it’s not about the explosions and disasters but about character. Were you worried that it wouldn’t really connect with readers for that reason?
Well, I worried about every element, but I knew I wanted to tell a story that would feel realistic. For me, that was the most important part. I wanted the characters to seem like real people, and I wanted the disaster to unfold in a way that would seem plausible and emotionally convincing to a reader.
Your choice to write from an 11-year-old girl’s perspective was bold but really worked. How did you manage that without making it a book for young adults/children?
It was important to me that Julia, the narrator, be an adult looking back on her childhood, rather than a child telling the story as it happens. That way, I could have access to the freshness and intensity of a child’s mind as well as to the wisdom and maturity of the adult Julia. We were all children once, and I hope the book is as much about remembering that time as it is about living it. Julia tells this story with a certain sense of nostalgia — nostalgia not only for her own childhood, but also for ordinary life as it was once lived on earth.
Any news on the movie adaptation?
I’m happy to have optioned the film rights to River Road, which is the company that made The Tree of Life and Brokeback Mountain, and there’s a very smart screenwriter attached, Seth Lochhead, who I know feels a strong personal connection to the book, so I’m excited to see how things develop.
What’s been your favorite book of the year?
I’m obsessed with the beautifully spare We Sinners by Hanna Pylvainen.
Follow @EWStephanLee on Twitter.