Interview – GM Jesse Kraai

Greetings everyone, this week we have a very special guest: Grandmaster Jesse Kraai author of the new book Lisa (which you should all check out). I wanted to wait until after I had read Lisa before posting this. Unfortunately due to some timing issues I didn’t get a chance to read it all the way through. Not to worry though, once I do complete the novel I will be sharing my thoughts. If any of you want to also read it perhaps we could start an Oprah’s book club sort of thing where we read it and discuss it as a group (or not whatever). Grandmaster Kraai contacted me via email out of the blue one day regarding his new novel and after some discussion he graciously allowed me to interview him. Without further meanderings I present to you GM Jesse Kraai (his comments are in italics):

What were some unexpected challenges you faced when writing Lisa?

The biggest was that I had to ask myself, “What is chess?” I thought I knew. Viewing the game from the perspective of a thirteen-year-old girl – and having to put everything about the game into the most simple language – forced me to view chess from a much wider perspective. And that largeness exploded most of my self-satisfied explanations about chess, and what I thought I was doing at the board.

What misconceptions do people have about writing a novel?

After you write a novel you realize that every line, every word of all the books you ever read – all that prose that felt so natural – has in fact been worked over in hundreds of drafts.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give the fledgling author Jesse Kraai?

Write in your journal every day, think deeply about what you are trying to accomplish and what is in fact motivating you.

Tell me about your process for writing Lisa

I wrote for a minimum of three hours every weekday. No exceptions. I had an editor; everything she said was right.

What audience did you have in mind when you were writing Lisa?

I really wanted to reach literate women who knew nothing about chess, maybe they even hate the game a little. I want to give them a view of our world. I think of this explaining as an overcoming of one of the last great gender barriers in our society. At the moment however I have to report that almost all of my readers have been chess-playing men. I’m hoping they give Lisa to their girlfriends, wives and mothers for Christmas!
(ed. Hope you like novels on chess Bubbe! (Yiddish word for grandma)).

Do you have a favorite Recipe? What’s in the GM’s cookbook?

The GM cookbook is mostly vegan and raw; no alcohol, little salt, lots of fiber. The fruit of California.

What is the most instructional game of chess you ever played/witnessed (ie a game that caused you to drop an opening or something that taught you a lesson)?

Paul Morphy vs. The Evil Duke. You have to realize that the game is an expression of an aesthetic.

Special thanks to Jesse for allowing me to interview him. He also has a blog which is definitely worth reading. In addition he is taking his show on the road and will be on the east coast (why he decided not to stop in the chess mecca that is Rochester, NY will forever remain a mystery):

Nov. 21st-23rd, events in Charlotte, North Carolina. All organized by famous chess journalist Mike Klein.

Sunday, November 24th, Marshall Chess Club, NYC, 7:30.

Monday, November 25th, reading in Philadelphia at All the King’s Men, 7.

Tuesday, November 26th, reading and simul in Washington DC (northern Virginia), 6:00. Organized by Capital area chess.

Monday, December 2nd, Simul and book signing at the Charlottesville Chess Club, 7:30.

Wednesday, December 4th, Reading at the University of Virginia Chess Club, 7.

Thursday, December 5th, Reading with a follow up Q and A in Washington DC (northern Virginia), 6:00. Organized by Capital area chess.

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