Author Interview: Anne Tyler

From the beloved Anne Tyler, Redhead by the Side of the Road is a sparkling new novel about misperception, second chances, and the sometimes elusive power of human connection. We spoke with Anne about her inspiration, the magic of a story read aloud, and more.

Tyler’s novels are always worth scooping up—but especially this gently amusing soother, right now.


Micah Mortimer is a creature of habit. A self-employed tech expert, superintendent of his Baltimore apartment building, cautious to a fault behind the steering wheel, he seems content leading a steady, circumscribed life. But one day his routines are blown apart when his woman friend (he refuses to call anyone in her late thirties a “girlfriend”) tells him she’s facing eviction, and a teenager shows up at Micah’s door claiming to be his son. These surprises, and the ways they throw Micah’s meticulously organized life off-kilter, risk changing him forever. An intimate look into the heart and mind of a man who finds those around him just out of reach, and a funny, joyful, deeply compassionate story about seeing the world through new eyes, Redhead by the Side of the Road is a triumph, filled with Anne Tyler’s signature wit and gimlet-eyed observation.

Please tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write this book and how this story took shape for you.

This was the first book that I can say was inspired by nothing whatsoever. I was wondering what to write about next, but I had no idea. And then a sentence popped into my head: You have to wonder what goes through the mind of a man like ___ ___. (I didn’t have a name yet.) I was baffled! I had to just sail out into empty space and trust in whatever happened.

In two sentences or less, what’s something that might surprise listeners about your audiobook?

They might be interested to know that I read every single word of it aloud to myself before I sent in my manuscript. That’s how I test whether the dialogue sounds authentic, and often it’s how I catch errors, such as unintentional repetitions of certain words.

Have you listened to your own audiobook? If so, what struck you about the narration?

I have listened to a sample, and I was so pleased with MacLeod Andrews’s reading. I love his arresting voice but also his natural tone and his matter-of-factness. I think Micah himself would approve.

Are you an audiobook listener? If so, what are some of your favorite audiobooks?

I am not a listener, I’m sorry to say. I seem to take more in through my eyes than my ears.

What have independent bookstores and/or booksellers meant to you personally and professionally?

There is something almost holy about stepping into an independent bookstore and realizing how much true booksellers know and understand, and what dedication they show in sharing their knowledge with their customers.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

I hope that in these times we’re living through right now, readers will find Micah’s story comforting and cheering. That’s the most I could wish for it.

Header photo by Diana Walker

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