A Totally Normal Interview With Author Emily St. John Mandel

Just asking the Station Eleven and Sea of Tranquility author what she’s been up to this year, that’s all.

A short-haired woman in a grey sweater smiles at the camera.
Emily St. John Mandel, who I’m interviewing for no particular reason. Sarah Shatz

On Saturday afternoon I was on Twitter, just reading various people’s funny tweets, and I suddenly thought, apropos of nothing: I wonder what’s going on in the life of bestselling author Emily St. John Mandel? So I sent her a few questions via email. She wrote right back! Our conversation has not been edited or condensed.

Dan Kois: So, are you doing anything exciting for the holidays?

Emily St. John Mandel: Yes! I’m flying to British Columbia with my daughter. My family’s all on Vancouver Island and in Vancouver. Flights to Vancouver Island have been greatly reduced since the pandemic, so getting there will be a two-day odyssey involving three flights and a night in the Vancouver airport hotel. It’s the first time I’ve been out there for Christmas since 2019. I can’t wait.


What have you read that you really loved recently?

All About Love, by bell hooks. That book changed the way I think about friendship.

The showrunner of Station Eleven, Patrick Somerville, recently promised—in response to a number of series vanishing off streaming platforms—that if the show ever disappeared he would “purchase one acre of land somewhere in the Mojave desert and just play it on loop, projected on a rock, forever.” Is that the optimal viewing experience for Station Eleven?


So, are you married these days?


Really! So you can confirm here in Slate dot com that you are not just, like, spending some time away, but are literally d-i-v-o-r-c-e-d.


Literally! The marriage ended the first week of April, after which I spent most of the rest of 2022 in divorce settlement negotiations and then received a judgment of divorce in November.

There is, in fact, a specific reason we’re doing this interview, which is that you have been having trouble getting Wikipedia to recognize your divorce. Can you tell me about that Sisyphean trial?

A long time ago, I want to say 2012, I gave an interview to Publishers Weekly where I talked about my marriage. So there was this fairly major publication wherein I’d talked about being married, and it turned out that worked against me when trying to get Wikipedia to recognize my divorce. According to a Wikipedia editor, I needed a comparable citation to get the change made on the page.


So my Wikipedia entry was essentially a time capsule. It bothered me that it was no longer accurate, but also it was kind of awkward for my girlfriend. I didn’t love that if her friends looked me up, they’d think she was dating a married woman. I needed an interview, and I knew it would be hard for my publicists to make a story happen in the last week before Christmas, so I thought, “maybe I’ll try Twitter?”

Tweets from Emily St. John Mandel discussing her situation.

I’m so grateful for the response. It means a lot that people responded so quickly.

Well, this is what journalism is all about: righting wrongs. Thanks for emailing with me.

Thank you, Dan.