Colson Whitehead came to BuzzFeed New York on Thursday where he was interviewed by Shani Hilton as part of the company’s new Breakfast at BuzzFeed speaker series. Here are some interesting facts we learned about the The Underground Railroad author during their conversation:
1.Being a journalist taught him how to write — his first job out of college was writing for the books section in The Village Voice.
2.Comics in the late 1970s and early 1980s made him want to write comics. He also wanted to write fantasy for many years.
3.He loved Stephen King, and horror stories in general.
4.The first book manuscript he wrote was rejected by 25 publishing houses.
5.But failing as a novelist only made him commit to being a novelist.
6.Many of his early books started from asking "what if" questions.
7.He's still proud of his debut novel, The Intuitionist, though his writing style has changed a lot over the years.
8.He believes male and female characters are equally difficult to write.
9.He got the idea for The Underground Railroad in 2000.
10.While writing The Underground Railroad, he kept his home life and writing life separate.
11.The fugitive classified ads in The Underground Railroad are real ads taken from newspapers in North Carolina.
12.The slave narratives collected by the WPA in the 1930s were a major influence for The Underground Railroad, as well as the stories of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs.
13.A movie adaptation of The Underground Railroad could be a possibility in the future (!).
14.When he's done writing a book, he becomes bored of the topic he was working on. (In this case, slavery.)