A Minnesota-based member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa (Ojibwe), Louise Erdrich is a master of multiple genres who won a Pulitzer in Fiction this year for The Night Watchman. On November 9, she released her latest novel, The Sentence (Harper), and here, she shares the habits that keep her humming. –Emily Rems
The Sentence is a ghost story set in Minneapolis between November 2019 and November 2020 and it incorporates both the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd. Did you feel an urgency to finish while these events were still fresh?
I’m an obsessively lapsed Catholic, so my deadline had to do with the liturgical calendar. The book begins on All Souls’ Day 2019, and I wanted it to be published around All Souls’ Day 2021. The veil between the worlds feels thin at that time and the idea that a ghost could emerge took hold.
Do you prefer to write longhand or to type?
I write longhand then transfer to computer.
How many hours a day do you write?
I can’t answer in hours. I write whenever I can, using whatever comes to hand—blood, chalk, crayon, tears—I’ll use anything.
What is your preferred writing space?
I have several cozy spots. I use a treadmill desk when I’m transferring writing to the computer. There’s a big, soft writing chair in my bedroom, another station in a back room, and there’s always the dining room table.
Are you alone when you write or are there people or pets around?
Sometimes a dog will sleep nearby—that’s the best. My door is never closed to my family, but they rarely disturb me.
What do you like to wear when you write?
I own a black cotton cardigan, thick and slouchy, with pockets for pens. When I put this on, I mean business.
Top photo Courtesy of Jenn Ackerman
This article originally appeared in BUST's Winter 2021/2022 print edition. Subscribe today!