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Elizabeth Strout wrote secretly for decades before publishing her first novel, Amy and Isabelle (1998) to enormous acclaim and tremendous sales. That best-seller was followed by another eight years later, and Abide with Me cemented Strout’s reputation as a gifted, nuanced writer. Olive Kitteridge revisits the coast of Maine, central to most of Strout’s narratives, but this unusual novel unfolds in a series of interconnected stories linked by the centrifugal force of its title character. And Olive—brash, nosy, resentful, empathetic, and petty—is one character who lingers long after the book is through. Elizabeth Strout reveals in this interview how a class in stand-up comedy helped her as a writer.