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Thursday, July 12, 2012

New Voices: Author Karen Thompson Walker

Karen Thompson Walker's The Age of Miracles (Random House, $26) is set in a once-placid California suburb facing solar radiation, dying species, failing crops and social disintegration after Earth's rotation slows.

Ramin Talaie

Why it's notable: The book sold for a reported seven figures, and it's been optioned for the movies and has earned early rave reviews.

Memorable line: "We were here."

Quick bio: Walker, 32, a resident of Brooklyn, N.Y., grew up in San Diego. She worked in book publishing while writing her first novel.

Real-life inspiration: "In 2004, shortly after the earthquake that caused the tsunami in Indonesia, I read that the earthquake was so powerful that it had affected the rotation of the earth, shortening our 24-hour days by a fraction of a second. I was really stunned by that news, by the idea that something I had always taken for granted — the steady rising and setting of the sun — was actually in flux."

On the threat of "the big one": "Sometimes I think I might not have written The Age of Miracles if I hadn't grown up in California, if I hadn't been exposed to its very particular blend of beauty and disaster, of danger and denial."

On the popularity of end-of-the-world scenarios: "My own pet theory is that there's actually a certain kind of unexpected pleasure in reading about a world radically altered by disaster. In these kinds of stories, a lot of the ordinary things we take for granted have fallen away — food in the grocery stores, hot showers, the predictable rising and setting of the sun. … As a result, all of the ordinary things begin to look a little miraculous. There's a pleasure in being reminded of the value of ordinary life."

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