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Proust-ish Questionnaire: Lukas Volger

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Lukas Volger is an acclaimed vegetarian cookbook author, who has been featured in the New York Times, Splendid Table, and Cooking the Books. There's a hint of genius in the way he writes about food. In his prose, even something as mundane as a list of actionable instructions for cooking, are infused with character and wit.

Which words do you overuse?

Protocol. Relief. Negligible. Generally adverbs.

Who are your heroes of fiction?

Mrs. Dalloway, Amy Bloom characters, Sula and Sethe.

What are you guilty of as a writer?

Pandering.

What defines you as a writer?

I don't really know. I hope to one day say that I'm introspective in a compelling way, but I'm not there yet. For the time being, vegetables.

Where do characters come from?

Our lives.

Who or what has influenced your writing most?

Emily Gould, Allan Gurganus, the internet, Laurie Colwin.

How do you know when it's good?

When I can return to a book or piece I loved and be moved in a new way, with equal impact as the first time.

Which other writer would you most have wanted to be?

I really don't know. I will have to keep thinking about this one. Maybe someone like James Merrill.

What do you look for in a reader?

Sympathy, curiosity, and critical faculties.

In a sentence, describe the journey from first draft to final manuscript.

This isn't a complete sentence, but: Inspiration, passion, dread, work, relief.

What do you value most in an editor?

When his/her goals are aligned with the writer's—he/she sees what the project is capable of becoming, and that vision is close to or the same as what the writer envisions. This way everyone is working towards the same end.

What do you value most in a writer?

Honesty.

When is a manuscript finished?

Always too soon.

What is your advice to a young writer?

You can do it for money or for fun. If you're doing it for money—a for-hire project—try to keep it as just that. Meet the deadline, cover all the bases, and cater to the audience. If you're doing it for fun, be unrelenting in your refusal to make any compromises.

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