When New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean sets her sights on a topic, the end results shine an extraordinary new light on the proceedings. After exploring the clandestine dealings of an eccentric plant dealer in "The Orchid Thief" (a New York Times bestseller that inspired the Spike Jonze film "Adaptation"), documenting the varied weekend rituals of Americans in "Saturday Night" and culling together her favorite, richly diverse profile pieces in "The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup," the author's latest book, "Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend" delves into the amazing story of an American icon. Susan Orlean will be on TODAY on Friday morning to discuss "Rin Tin Tin," but we thought it would be interesting to reach out to her to investigate her own reading and writing habits.
1. If you hadn’t become a writer, what profession do you think you’d have pursued?
I fantasized about becoming an architect or an urban planner — although I'm afraid I would have flunked out of the math requirement. I had applied to law school right out of college with no enthusiasm at all, but that's probably where I would have ended up if my crazy aspirations for a writing career had gone unanswered.
2. You’ve written about an incredibly diverse array of subjects and delve deeply into each of them. How would you describe your writing routine?
I usually stumble onto a subject without any forewarning — and then all I want to do is to learn everything I can about it as quickly as possible. I spend as much time as I can immersing myself in the subject. When I feel like I really know the story, I then sit down to write. I try to keep a pretty steady writing schedule — I'm at the computer by 10 am, and I don't leave until I've written 1000 words.
3. What was the last book you were really excited about?
I was bowled over by Lawrence Wright's book "The Looming Tower," which tells the story of 9/11, including the background of all the suicide bombers. It's an extraordinary book. I couldn't stop thinking about it for months after I read it.
4. Who, if push comes to shove, is your all-time favorite author?
William Faulkner. His language, his insight, and his artistry are staggering. Reading him changed my life and made me dream of becoming a writer.
5. Would you ever let Cooper, your beloved Welsh springer spaniel, follow in Rin Tin Tin’s paw-prints?
Show business is a tough business. I'd be proud to see my pooch on the big screen, but happier to see him at the foot of my bed.
Tune in to TODAY Friday to watch author Susan Orlean discuss "Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend."