Andrew Sean Greer is an American novelist and short-story writer. The New York Times called his 2008 novel The Story of a Marriage “lyrical” and “inspired.” His first novel, 2001’s The Path of Minor Planets, was well received, and his second, 2004’s The Confessions of Max Tivoli, earned him comparisons to Proust and Nabokov from critic John Updike. His stories have appeared in Esquire, The Paris Review, The New Yorker, and other national publications. Born in Washington, D.C., Greer received his bachelor’s degree from Brown University and his master’s degree from the University of Montana. He currently resides in San Francisco. Greer was so well received as an undergrad that his classmates elected him the commencement speaker, for his own graduation.
Question: Why do you use all three names?
Andrew Sean Greer: That’s a great question. It’s because when I first started publishing I was about 23 and I felt like Andy was not going to be taken very seriously, so I called myself Andrew Sean. It was the name my mom would yell out when I was in trouble, so it felt like I could sort of take on a persona of maybe an older sounding person.
Question: How do you respond to a good review?
Andrew Sean Greer: Great relief. I really think that’s it because you have no idea what’s going to happen and then you’re hugely relieved and sometimes baffled that they take you that seriously and it’s a little confusing because you’re often so full of doubt that they don’t seem to notice at all.
Question: How did your childhood shape you?
Andrew Sean Greer: I grew up in the suburbs, which I don’t think shaped me very much. I think what shaped me was I had two parents who were scientists and especially they were great readers. They had both grown up in sort of rural parts of the South and were oddballs where they grew up. They were budding intellectuals. My mom was a chemist and used to poison frogs in her backyard and that kind of think and so we had tons of books in our house. That was their great solace in their lives. They were the only weirdos and so books were always this exalted thing, so they were very supportive when I wanted to be a writer. They had no sense how anyone could make money doing that, but they weren’t going to stop me because that’s what they admired most. I think that’s where I got that.