Dead or Alive

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Jun 28 2010

What Four Authors Dead or Alive Would You Want to Have Lunch With?

I have to admit, this idea was stolen from my client Jennifer Stanley and her Cozy Chicks blog. And I would suggest picking your four before reading what other people have to say. That only makes it harder. Thanks for the idea, J.B.


Edith Wharton—Not only do I love her books, but I’m fascinated by her life and want to know more about New York during the turn of the twentieth century.
Louisa May Alcott—She is the author of one of my all-time favorite books. She’s also from a time period I would like to know more about.
Julia Child—My second love, after books, is cooking. I think Julia would help us choose amazing foods and add a lovely, wonderful liveliness to the conversation.
Robert B. Parker—I always imagine that Robert B. Parker is Spencer personified and I think we ladies need a sexy, dashing man at the table too.


Phyllis Whitney—My grandmother read all of her books, passed them on to my mom, and finally on to me. When I picked up my first Phyllis Whitney novel in middle school, my love of books began.
Temple Grandin—As the mother of an autistic child, I’m inspired by her story and her success. She’s living proof that “different” doesn’t mean “less.” I can’t think of anyone who’s done more to help the world understand Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Dean Koontz—I’ll read anything he writes. Few authors have mastered characterization and suspense as expertly as he has.
Jane Austen—Well, if I had my druthers, I’d have lunch with Mr. Darcy. But I’ll settle for a lunch spent talking about Mr. Darcy with the woman who created him.


Ted Dekker—Although I haven’t read all of his books, I love his psychological thrillers and really want to know what goes on inside his head.
Ann Rinaldi—I ate her books up as a teen and was amazed by her ability to draw me into various historical time periods.
Audrey Niffenegger—Books rarely make me cry. I bawled at the end of The Time Traveler’s Wife and the story haunted me—in a good way—for weeks. I also want to know how she kept all of those time travel details straight!
My first fiction author—Whether this is one of my nonfiction clients who branches into fiction or a brand-new client I have yet to take on, I dream of having a brainstorming lunch with that author, hashing out ideas for his/her future projects.


Jodi Picoult—She has a beautiful mind and how wonderful to spend lunch listening to it.
Charlotte Bronte—I would never pass up the chance to meet the author of my favorite book and favorite romance hero, Mr. Rochester.
Stephen King—His creepiness is fascinating. I also grew up on his books and would like to meet their maker.
Barbara Kingsolver—I consider her a master (mistress?) of the English language. How interesting to have a conversation with a person who can express herself so beautifully. She also knows a lot about foreign cultures and I’d like to pick her brain!

46 responses to “Dead or Alive”

  1. I've only one. Dean Koontz. I want to ask him bodachs, and tell him I see them all the time.

  2. Avatar steeleweed says:

    John Masters: favorite all-around novelist.

    Louis L'Amour: great storyteller.

    Maurice Walsh: beautiful voice.

    Stephen Vincent Benet: favorite poet.

    And also Fareed Zakaria: – amazingly clear and thoughtful. Wish he'd write a novel.

  3. Avatar rachelcapps says:

    I'd start with Jane Austen – a remarkable woman and writer. I wonder if she has any writing tips?

    Then I would have to say, Shakespeare – I think discussing the poetry of his life over a cuppa would be entertaining.

    Next, from my fav genre. Terry Goodkind. His writing skills amaze me with each read.

    The last? Again, it must be my fav genre. I'm torn, but would have to say George RR Martin – Winter is coming …

  4. Avatar Izzy G. says:

    Charles Dodgson, for sure. Anyone else, eh. But definitely-absolutely-100% Charles Dodgson.

  5. Avatar kris says:

    I'll play!

    Lucy Maud Montgomery. Is there a Canadian girl alive who wouldn't want to meet the voice behind Anne of Green Gables?

    Christopher Moore. I would undoubtedly be terrified, but oh, how I would love to glimpse that imagination in action.

    the folks who write the Unofficial Guides to Disney, because I think they must have some fabulous stories AND some hints & secrets that they can't put into the books.

    St. Paul. What an amazing life journey he had, and what an astonishing influence he continues to have.

  6. Avatar Karen Schwabach says:

    1. J.K. Rowling. I have endless quibbles. She might end up braining me with the bubble-and-squeak. (Whatever that is.) Or perhaps not– she seems a very patient lady.

    2. Diana Wynne Jones. I've loved her books since I was a kid. I'd just bask.

    3. Charles Dickens. Get him to tell me how he visualizes characters. (Am miffed by the current trend for calling him a racist. I've read all his books at least eight times. Take him as a product of his times, and he's a helluvalot less racist than his contemporaries. Particularly, compare his descriptions of African-Americans in the US with those written by other mid-nineteenth century Europeans.)

    4. Terry Pratchett. Because he is so very funny and observant.

    Huh. I seem to want to have lunch with Brits.

  7. Avatar Rosemary says:

    Kim, I want in on the Austen lunch. Number one choice.

    Close second: Nora Ephron. We could talk about food and my movie deal.

    Third: Tom Perrotta. Favorite guy writer ever.

    Fourth: George Eliot. Just to get a glimpse into the brilliant mind that produced Middlemarch.

  8. Avatar Nancy says:

    Gene Stratton Porter–great Indiana romance author of the early 20th century, she was also a naturalist and I'd love to have dinner at her house in the Limberlost..

    Richard Russo–I want to see if he's really as quirky and funny in person as he is in his novels…

    Maurice Sendak–how can you beat Where the Wild Things Are?

    Mark Twain–just because…it's Mark Twain!

  9. Avatar Fawn Neun says:

    @Karen – I'll join you…

    1) Terry Pratchett
    2) Douglas Adams
    3) Oscar Wilde
    and one American
    4) Mark Twain

  10. Avatar Tim of Angle says:

    Anyone who doesn't start the list with Oscar Wilde needs to get out more. That leads inevitably to G. Bernard Shaw. I'd probably finish it with Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, just to watch them fight.

  11. In order of importance (as in..if I could only dine with one author dead or alive it would be hands down Nietzsche!)

    1. Nietzsche

    2. Dostoevsky

    3. Wilde

    4. Cather (Willa)

  12. Avatar Victoria says:

    Jane Austen – 'nuff said. Best. Author. Ever.

    Charlotte Macleod – Her funny mysteries are brilliant in an understated way… sadly, she passed on a few years ago.

    Joan Hess – The best author of funny cozy mysteries… a want to meet her!

    Emily Bronte – I would love to learn what made her tick!

  13. Avatar ryan field says:

    Anne Tyler

    John Irving

    Philip Roth

    Anais Nin

  14. Avatar Kimber An says:

    C.S. Lewis

    Lucy Maud Montgomery

    Timothy Zahn

    J.R.R. Tolkien

  15. John D. MacDonald
    Carl Hiaasen
    Tony Hillerman
    Rob Thomas (the writer, not the muscician)

  16. Avatar Taryn Tyler says:

    Lloyd Alexander –great storyteller and repsonsible for most of my contemplaions on morality when I was younger

    Robert Louis Stevenson –Blood and Thunder books rock and its amazing that he wrote so many books in such a short life

    Ursula LeGuin –the woman is an amazing world builder and so respectful to life. I feel like she would have a lot to talk about over luch.

    Ray Bradbury –another author who wrote an outstanding quantity of stories. He has such an exciting way of describing every day things and wonder for life.

  17. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Steinbeck, Cormac McCarthy, Elmore Leonard, J.K. Rowling

  18. Avatar T.J. says:

    James Dashner: Just because he's so cool.
    Brandon Sanderson: See above
    Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: To me, it'd be like lunch with Stephen King, only I won't be afraid when I leave.
    Alexandre Dumas: His life was as classic as his novels.

  19. Avatar Sara says:

    Margaret Mitchell. I might be too awestruck by the creator of Scarlet O'Hara, Rhett Butler, and one of the greatest love stories of all time to make any lunchtime conversation, but I'd sure love to give it a try.

    Barbara Kingsolver. After reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," I started gardening on my porch. She loves food and cooking as much as I do (high praise!) and is committed to the grow locally/organic movement. Oh, and she was also nominated for a Pulitzer for that other little book of hers.

    Elizabeth Gilbert. I went to see her in February and she is a tremendously talented public speaker. She's also funny, witty, and engaging.

    Nelson Mandela. What an AMAZING human being.

  20. Avatar Sara says:

    I just had a crisis of conscience. Maybe I picked Nelson Mandela because of his amazing life's work and since his book "The Long Walk to Freedom" is his autobiography, maybe that's cheating.(Or maybe I'm a paranoid geek!)

    So based solely on WRITING, my fourth author would be Lucy Maud Montgomery. "Anne of Green Gables" was one of the first books I read (over 25 years ago!) and I still love it.

  21. Avatar Mira says:

    Are we talking fiction writers here? Because my non-fiction list would be very different – Freud, Plato, Marx, Frankl.


    Oscar Wilde – what a hoot of a lunch that would be.

    Mark Twain – for exactly the same reason.

    Shakespeare – who on earth was this guy that he could write works that would be relevant hundreds of years later?

    JK Rowling – I want to learn from her ability to plot. Astounding.

  22. Nora Roberts
    Dick Francis
    Georgette Heyer
    Terry Pratchett

    I only need to see these names on the cover to know that I would love the book, so I can't help but wonder if my favorite authors would have anything in common.

  23. C.S. Lewis (I'd just like to pick his brain), Katherine Mansfield (I bet she was a little eccentric — therefore an awesome lunch companion), Edith Wharton (master of realistic dialogue)… and can I have lunch with the Bronte sisters or is that cheating?


  24. Avatar Kasey says:

    1) Hemingway – Not only was he just simply a master of his craft, I'd like to think we could talk him out of that shotgun idea…

    2) Mark Z. Danielewski – He who writes "House of Leaves" has several questions to answer. The most thoroughly deceptive book ever written, and the tightest weave of any narrative. I have questions!

    3) Virginia Woolf – again, master of her craft, and we could perhaps talk about not going for that last swim.

    4) Bill Watterson – okay, maybe not a traditional author, but I loved Calvin & Hobbes. Loved. It.

  25. Avatar Alexis Grant says:

    Roald Dahl! Childhood hero.

  26. Avatar Lynn M says:

    1. Jane Austin because she's written books I can read over and over and it's always like I've just discovered something amazing.

    2. Laura Ingalls Wilder because she's directly responsible or sparking my love of reading and I think she'd tell wonderful stories.

    3. Suzanne Brockmann because she writes the books I love to read and I'd love to have her be my mentor.

    4. J.K. Rowling because I'd love to shake her hand and tell her how amazing she is for imagining the entire Harry Potter world.

  27. Avatar PT says:

    Ooh… one of my favorite topics. Fiction authors, in no particular order:

    1) Astrid Lindgren. She wrote books which speak both to children and adults. Would love to know how she did that.

    2) Octavia E. Butler. I've read her works both in English and in three other languages. Where did she get her ideas from and how she shaped her world(s)?

    3) Ursula K. LeGuin. I'd love to talk with her about the process of writing. And mayby have a word or two about world-building…

    4) Tove Jansson. Here I'd completly skip the Moomin books but chat about her "works for adults" – as well as how her other works (paintings, sculptures etc) affected her writing.

    Very close would be Laura Ingals Wilder – not because of her writing, but I'd really like to know about all those things she left out of her books: like, did they really change the clothes only once in a week? Where did they build the outhouse? How did you handle menstruations? During the Hard Winter, did you take a bath even once? In other words, how was the life really was like!

    Non-fiction: Marx, Platon, Kierkegaard and then a draw between Nietzsche and Lenin.

    Interesting: I'm a male, and in fiction I only female authors…


  28. William Shakespeare: C'mon, it's the Bard.

    J.R.R. Tolkien: "The" man when it came to fantasy and world-building.

    Mark Twain: No one could spin things around as seriously and humorously as him.

    Raymond Chandler: Honestly, it's a tie between him and Hammett, but he was around for longer, and "The Simple Art of Murder" is awesome. I just need to talk to one of the premier hard-boiled guys.

    Only four? But there are so many more! Curses, foiled again.

  29. Avatar Tara says:

    Jane Austen, Kurt Vonnegut, and Neil Gaiman, for starters. I adore all of their work and suspect they're all fabulous in person. I've been having some trouble picking a fourth, but I do think Oscar Wilde would be a good choice.

  30. Avatar Jill says:

    In coming up with my list, I realized my dream meal would be an intervention!

    My picks are Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Harper Lee.

  31. Avatar Florence says:

    Always and forever … J.D. Salinger because I dreamed of hearing the voice behind the "voice."
    Agatha Christie; was no cozy and a tough old broad.
    Virginia Woolf I am sure needs no explanation.
    Elaine May so I could sit back, listen and learn.
    A voice and a backbone, determination and comedy.

  32. Avatar wry wryter says:

    My lunch would be a little different.

    Stephen King, the master.

    Dean Koontz, no one writes a better chase scene or should I say a better 'being chased' scene.

    Joining us would be Alfred Hitchcock, Rod Serling and M. Night Shyamalan.

    I'd serve blood orange screwdrivers.
    Lunch… brought by Anthony Bourdain.
    You're all invited, I'll take notes.

  33. Avatar Bethany says:

    Toni Morrison. I'd give up a second choice to have lunch listening to her talk to Charlie Rose.

    Alan Lightman. I assume he has the most intriguing mind.

    You know what, I'm pretty sure all for all other authors, their books would suffice.

  34. Good blog post!

    Jodi Picoult – she didn't experience many of the tumultuous things she writes about, but she researched them and describes things beautifully.

    Truman Capote – so unique and I think he'd be interesting to talk to.

    Stephen King – the master of storytelling.

    Kate Chopin – love her work and she writes about Louisiana where I'm from.

    Great post and question today 🙂


  35. Avatar LivelyClamor says:

    I can't list just four!!

  36. Could I have lunch four times with Sue Grafton instead?

  37. John Steinbach,
    Charles Dickens,
    Elsie Park Gowan,
    Diana Gabaldon.

  38. Avatar CFD Trade says:

    For me, it's Dan Brown, C.S. Lewis, Robert Kiyosaki and Johanna Lindsey.

  39. Avatar Lucy says:

    Paul Maier: I've met the man, and he has a simply delightful sense of humor.

    Romuald Spasowski: wrote the most moving memoir/history of modern Poland that I could ever have imagined.

    Milt Bearden: expert on my research subject, and I want to hear the back-corridor stuff that never makes it into print.

    Stanislav Levchenko: just to say "thank you for sharing your story."

  40. Jane Austen: I would love to hear about her process of editing. I read she would cut, cut, cut. I want to learn to do that more readily.

    Rainer Maria Rilke: The most amazing poet and thinker.

    Stephen King: Has the most fascinating character interactions and understanding of human nature.

  41. Avatar Kell Bell says:

    What? Only four? Hmm…let's see…

    Charles Dickens – one of the first authors whose works inspired me during my years of schooling. The worlds he created and the characters who resided in them marvelled me.

    William Shakespeare – I don't know that I'd understand all that he'd say to me during lunch, but just to be able to say "thank you" for stirring up my interest in screenwriting and playwriting would be an honor.

    Gregory Maguire – Not since Mr. Dickens has anyone impressed me as much as Mr. Maguire has. His ability to take well-known fairytales/myths/general expectations and provide his readers with a different point of view…that's one incredibly talented man.

    Kathleen McGowan – Her novels did what so few others were able to do; entertain and enlighten. As Gregory Maguire has been able to do so has Ms. McGowan. Kathleen's novels take accepted situations and beliefs then prompt readers to re-examine their own lives and the way in which they live them.

  42. Avatar Amorena says:

    Naomi Novik: She's brilliant. End of story.

    Chris d'Lacey: Also brilliant. And his novels are the definition of controlled chaos, to the point where I have to wonder what he's like in a conversation.

    Timothy Zahn: Brilliant. Oh, and he's a physicist. Physics is awesome.

    E.E. Knight: Because he wrote a series from the point of view of dragons and pulled it off brilliantly.

    Tied between Anne McCaffrey and Christopher Paolini: Both have wonderful portrayals of dragons.

  43. Avatar _*rachel*_ says:

    C. S. Lewis
    Jane Austen
    Douglas Adams
    Ray Bradbury
    backups: J. R. R. Tolkein, Victor Hugo, and Charles Dickens–and don't get me started on the backups' backups.

    Getting this group together might make for an interesting conversation. I'd be especially interested in how C. S. Lewis and Douglas Adams got along. And I'd keep Jane Austen after to give me some advice on finding the right guy.

  44. Avatar jFosberry says:

    Oh… definitely
    1.Robert B Parker. And he could bring Joan as well, as long as they promise not to only talk to each other. I've always LOVED his characters.

    I would also enjoy:
    2. Terry Pratchett
    3. Douglas Adams
    That could be really fun together.

    Then for my all-time favorites as a kid:
    4. Ellen Raskin
    5. Madeline L'Engle

  45. Avatar 42 says:

    1. Voltaire, Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, and Mark Twain. (Benjamin Franklin, Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams could sub if any of the first four couldn't make it).

    The transcript of the lunch conversation would probably be the wittiest dialogue ever written.

    2. C.S. Lewis, Tolkein, Dostoyevsky and Steinbeck. I don't know what they'd discuss, but it'd be profound.

  46. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Maggie says:
    So … I'm a little late to this post but I didn't see my favorite author on anyone's list … and feel sorry for all for what you are missing.

    This is my fiction list only.
    Nelson DeMille
    Stuart Neville
    Robert Parker
    Barbara Parker(don't think they're related.
    Both the Parkers, sadly, have gone to God, as my sainted Mother used to say. But, man would I love lunch with DeMille and /or Neville.