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Child's Play

In Summerland, Michael Chabon is going after a whole new audience.

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What inspired you to write a 500-page young-adult novel set in a magical alternate America?

Reading aloud to my children. That reconnected me with an earlier incarnation of myself, at 10 or 11, when I said I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. Back then, I didn't want to write a novel about an overweight, pot-smoking, philandering teacher whose mistress is pregnant; I wanted to write the books I loved to read, fantasy and novels about contemporary children. That idea stayed dormant in the Romper Room of my brain.

How about comparisons to Harry Potter?

They are inevitable. What can you do? Harry Potter is God in my house -- my daughter is a complete Potter maniac -- so I have a healthy respect for both the books and the author. I'm fairly certain my publisher would not have been so interested in this book if it weren't for Harry Potter.

Well, you do have a motherless boy, Ethan, whose best friend, Jennifer T, is a really tough girl.

Jennifer T could kick Hermione's ass! Orphan children are standard kids'-literature fare. You have to have that wound that must be healed.

Have you started your next novel?

It's a thriller set in an alternate reality where, instead of a Hebrew-speaking Jewish state in the Middle East, there's a Yiddish-speaking Jewish state in lower Alaska.

Summerland
by Michael Chabon
(Miramax Books; October).

Buy it on bn.com


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