Coming to the Festival of Books: Jonathan Evison

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Jonathan Evison is the author of ‘West of Here,’ a rollicking novel of history, adventure and KFC in the Pacific Northwest.

Evison will be at the L.A. Times Festival of Books on Saturday, April 30, on the panel ‘Fiction: Untold Family Stories’ at 11 a.m. with Alan Cheuse and Nina Revoyr. Evison answered Jacket Copy’s questions via email.

Jacket Copy: Your first novel, ‘All About Lulu,’ was set in Venice Beach among a family of weightlifters. Did you ever live in Venice?

Jonathan Evison: No, I just spent a lot of time there, as a kid, then later in the ‘90s when I was back in L.A., living in the bagel belt. Both of my parents (and grandparents) are native Angelenos. My dad grew up on Muscle Beach, first as an acrobat, and later as a bodybuilder, back when it was still in Santa Monica.


JC: You’ve said that you worked on your new novel -- ‘West of Here,’ which juggles the story of dozens of characters in a remote corner of Washington state and includes history, adventure, bigfoot and Kentucky Fried Chicken -- in a vintage camper. Can you tell us about your unusual remote office?

JE: My lifeline is my ’76 Dodge motor home. Truly, the moho has changed my life. It’s got orange shag carpet and swivel chairs and a refrigerator, which is invariably well stocked with hops and barley. I keep the gas tank full, so I can just climb in and leave whenever I want or need to. I spend about a hundred days a year in the thing, either up in the mountains, or on the coast, or in one of the thirteen Olympic River valleys that I call my backyard. Most of the year, it’s just me and the white hairs at the campgrounds. Invariably the dogs are with me.

Whenever I need a break in a story, or I’ve got some technical issue bogging me down, the moho never fails me. The minute I climb into that sucker, I’m free. All the emails, and the clutter, and the bills, and vagaries of domestic life are in the rear-view mirror. My creative mind really loosens up in the wilderness.

JC: Are you looking forward to anything in particular at the Festival of Books this year?

JE: The parties! No, really. L.A.. is such a great book town. I think I know as many writers in L.A. (and readers too) as I know in New York, and that’s saying something. It’s a perfect place to celebrate the book, in that regard. I’m looking forward to the convergence of all these wonderful book people from all over the place, just talking books 24/7. Doesn’t get better than that.

JC: What do you hope to see or do in L.A. apart from the Festival of Books?

JE: Lately, I’ve been thinking about San Pete. Don’t know why, exactly. Haven’t been down there in years, but with so much going on with the festival and all, I doubt I’ll get the chance this trip. So, mostly I look forward to seeing many of my writer friends -- particularly my good pals Mary Guterson and Ben Loory.

Tickets for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books panels will be available through Eventbrite beginning Sunday, April 24 at 9 a.m.


Review: Jonathan Evison’s ‘West of Here’

-- Carolyn Kellogg