'' This is the last in the series,'' the '' Tales of the City '' writer says about '' Mona of the Manor,'' which brings Barbary Lane to the English countryside. '' There are 10 of them, and that has a nice symmetry to me.''

.-  What book should everybody read before the age of 21?

Harper Lee's '' To Kill a Mockingbird.'' It's a primer in human decency.

.-  Disappointing, overrated, just not good : What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn't?

Well, I was warned but I didn't listen. '' Go Set a Watchman,'' the so-called ''sequel'' to '' To Kill a Mockingbird,'' is a muddy mess, in which Atticus Finch devolves into an old-school racist that my own father would not have found objectionable.

.-  What's the most important thing you learned from a book recently?

There was a vibrant bohemian culture in San Francisco in the 1860s. Part of it was a response to artists fleeing from the Civil War, which was raging on the East Coast. 

The community was fascinating, including an actor who some have called a trans man, and other queer figures.

.-  What's your favorite book set in a manor house [ aside from your own ]?

Dodie Smith's '' I Capture the Castle '' enchanted me as a teenager and still works its charm when I pick it up.

Sweet eccentrics living penniless in a grand old house.It had a definite influence on '' Mona of the Manor. ''

.-  Do you think a reader could jump into '' Mona of the Manor ''' without having read the earlier books? without having read the earlier books? What do they need to know?

Like all the " Tales, '' Mona is designed so the reader begins at the beginning. You don't have to know anything about the other books in order to read this one, although if you are a fan of Mona from earlier books you'll probably get more out of it.

.-  How do you sign books for your own fans?

Just my name and their name and a personal inscription when I feel inspired. I don't take dictation.

.-  Do you think [ or write ] differently about your characters now that they've been brought to the screen by actors?

Laura Linney's spot-on-portrayal of Mary Ann Singleton was so indelible that she lived in my head when I wrote the later novels. There were plenty of fine actors in the series, but Laura really brought my vision to life.

.-  What do you plan to read next?

'' The Bee Sting '' by Paul Murray.

The World Students Society thanks The New York Times.


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