The Art of Fictionalizing Non-Fiction: Katie Hafner on Kafka, Silicon Valley and the truish story behind her novel "The Boys"
EPISODE 1461: In this KEEN ON episode, Andrew talks to the author of THE BOYS, Katie Hafner, about the art of fictionalizing non-fiction, Kafka and her career writing about Silicon Valley
Katie Hafner was on staff at The New York Times for ten years, where she remains a frequent contributor, writing on healthcare and technology. She has also worked at Newsweek and BusinessWeek, and has written for The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Wired, The New Republic, The Washington Post, and O, The Oprah Magazine. She is the author of five previous works of nonfiction covering a range of topics, including the origins of the Internet, computer hackers, German reunification, and the pianist Glenn Gould. Her first novel, The Boys, was published in July 2022. Katie is also co-creator and host of Lost Women of Science, a narrative podcast that illuminates the lives of remarkable female scientists whose stories have been lost to history.
About Katie's New Book, The Boys:
Paperback Edition out now!
Praise for The Boys:
“What a wonder of storytelling. I will be thinking of these boys for a long time to come.”
Weike Wang — The New York Times Book Review, July 26, 2022
“Journalist Hafner’s marvelous fiction debut centers on a socially awkward man’s neuroses about fatherhood. While working as the chief technology officer at a startup in Philadelphia, Ethan meets Barb, a University of Pennsylvania grad student, and the two start dating. They soon marry, though Ethan suspects he’s scored out of his league. Having lost his parents at an early age, he also fears becoming a father, but Barb changes his mind, only for them to discover after a year of trying to conceive that Ethan is sterile. They decide to foster two young boys, but when the Covid-19 pandemic hits and Ethan develops an overbearing attachment to them, his relationship with Barb disintegrates. She leaves him and he takes the boys on a bike trip to Italy, where a jaw-dropping twist ensues. Starting out as a lighthearted romance before taking an unsettling turn, this upsets expectations in the best way. The heartbreaking late reveal will take a second reading to fully sink in and pushes the troubled marriage genre to dizzying extremes. It’s a remarkable outing, and readers will look forward to seeing what Hafner does next.”
– Publishers Weekly
“Tender and emotionally intelligent…An audacious feat of narrative bravado.”
– Maria Semple, author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette?
This is a treat-yourself read, the tale of an endearing human on a hilariously misguided quest for love and connection, in the delight-filled tradition of Anne Tyler. But Hafner bakes a surprise into the center of her confection — a glorious, mind-blowing twist that propels the story to unexpected heights and depths. With exquisite compassion and humor, this novel leaves its readers deeply nourished, heart, mind, and soul.
— Debra Jo Immergut, Author of You Again
What’s with Those Boys? Katie Hafner Is Asking.
Publishers Weekly – Katie Hafner, a seasoned journalist and the author of six nonfiction books, tells me she gave up on writing a novel when, as a young girl, she read Sylvia Plath’s Letters Home. “I thought, I could never do this. But I’ve mellowed and am not so harsh with myself. Maybe I’m not Sylvia Plath, but I can still do it.”
And she has, brilliantly: her debut novel, The Boys, is forthcoming in July from the revamped Spiegel & Grau, which launched as an independent publisher in December 2020 after being a longtime Penguin Random House imprint. It’s Spiegel & Grau’s first acquired novel and the first one it’s publishing.
A Book Group Visit.
Katie would be happy to visit your book group when you discuss The Boys. She can Zoom in for 30 minutes and answer any questions you might have.
Katie lives in San Francisco, so if you’re based in the SF Bay Area, she might be able to come in person. Click on the link below to contact her!