Chris Bohjalian was kind enough to stop by and discuss The Guest Room, out January 5.
What was the inspiration for The Guest Room?
Perhaps the answer is not a “what,” but a “who.”
In 2013, my family and I brought one of our daughter’s friends with us to Yerevan. The young woman was part Armenian, but had never been to Armenia. Our daughter and her friend were 19 at the time. Our daughter’s friend was leaving a day before us and was on a six a.m. flight to Moscow. The plan was that I would meet her in the lobby of our hotel about 3:30 in the morning and bring her to the airport.
I got to the lobby first, about 3:15, and while I was waiting I saw another young woman paying off the bellman to go upstairs. She was clearly an escort, and she was younger than my daughter and her friend. It broke my heart as a father — but I had a sense that here was the kernel for my next novel.
My hope is that “The Guest Room” is a page-turner with characters you care about deeply. But I hope also it raises awareness of human trafficking and sexual slavery.
If you could cast the Guest Room, who would you pick?
Oh, I don’t think like that: a novel is a different beast from a movie, and I fear my work would suffer if I ever started casting my characters in my mind.
Moreover, I’ve had three books become movies, and never once did I see any of the actors in those films in my mind as I was writing.
But I do love movies. I actually watch trailers before I start writing in the morning to get in the mood.
Can you share the first sentence/paragraph?
Here are screen grabs of the first two pages:
Is there a Twitter pitch?
A thriller about a marriage in crisis, two remarkable women, and that one moment you wish more than anything you could take back.
If you could make one book mandatory, what would it be, and why?
“The Forty Days of Musa Dagh.” It’s a powerful introduction to the Armenian Genocide, and there is a direct link between the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, the Cambodian Killing Fields, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur. It’s a long — and growing — list.
What are your five favorite books? You can do authors if that’s easier
Oh, it changes all the time. Today? “The Goldfinch.” “Anna Karenina.” “Room.” “Into Thin Air.” “Catch-22.” “The Great Gatsby.” (Six, I know. But I can’t find one I want to take off the list.) I have a feeling when I finish “A Little Life,” it will be on this list.
What 2016 books are you excited for?
I honestly don’t know what’s coming. Sorry about that.