Episode 116: World-Building from the Inside Out — Interview with Amor Towles

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Podcast

Hey there word nerds!

Today I am thrilled and delighted to be speaking with author Amor Towles about his latest book A Gentleman in Moscow.

If you’ve ever struggled with world-building, this book is a master class on how to navigate the multiple layers of setting and that’s what we talk about this interview today. As you’ll hear in this conversation, world-building is not just relevant for writers of historical fiction, science fiction, or fantasy. Setting and world-building is important for any type of story.

As we discuss in this interview, world also exists on multiple levels. Like ripples in a pond, where the setting can influence your character, but your character can also affect your story’s world.

In this episode Amor and I discuss:

  • The premise latest book, and how world-building factored in from the very beginning of his writing process.
  • How to avoid the biggest world-building mistake in writing, and how to work around these constraints wit your setting.
  • Using supporting characters to add layers of interest to your setting, when your main character is confined in a limited space.
  • Why it’s important to understand all aspects of a time period or culture, so you can convey multiple layers of complexity to your story.
  • The ripple effect of world-building and how setting operates on both micro and macro levels.
  • Why applied research and artificial details don’t capture the emotional truth of a scene or description, and how to use character to make setting come to life.
  • Creating characters and stories that seem to extend beyond the pages of the book.
  • How the world of your story impacts your character, and how your character can affect your story’s world.

Plus, Amor’s #1 tip for writers.

About the Author

Amor Towles was born and raised just outside Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated from Yale University and received an MA in English from Stanford University. For many years a principal at an investment firm in Manhattan, he now devotes himself full time to writing. His first novel, Rules of Civility, published in 2011, was a New York Times bestseller in both hardcover and paperback. Towles lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children. To learn more about Amor and his writing, visit his website, AmorTowles.com, or follow him on Instagram or Facebook.

A Gentleman in Moscow

A big novel that embodies the grandiloquent style and spirit of Russia’s Golden Age of literature, A Gentleman in Moscow is a captivating story of personal and emotional discovery. This novel immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin.

Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Though stripped of most of his personal possessions and his dignity, the Count remains determined to preserve his passion for life, and finds his days propelled in profound and unanticipated directions through his encounters with the hotel’s staff and guests, which unlock the doors to larger worlds within the hotel and ultimately himself.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

Link to Episode 116

(Right-click to download.)

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Until next week, keep writing and keep being awesome!

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