Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Stacey Abrams’ Novel, While Justice Sleeps, Was Over a Decade in the Making

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-Our next guest is

a voting rights organizer,

former Georgia state representative,

and best-selling author.

Her new book, "While Justice Sleeps,"

is available now.

Please welcome back to the show Stacey Abrams.

Hello, Stacey. How are you?

-I am well. Thank you. How are you?

-I'm very well. Your book is called

"While Justice Sleeps." Last time you were here,

it was right before the runoffs in Georgia.

Both the candidates, you were supporting won

and we talked about you sleeping

and I'm just wondering if you managed to take

a celebratory nap at the end of those runoff elections.

-I did, indeed.

But I woke up to voter suppression

coming back in force, so,

I may not do another nap for a while.

-You are a very busy person

and, while we greatly appreciate your efforts

in trying to stop the tide of voter suppression laws

that are, obviously, a huge problem right now,

you also have time to write books.

This is very exciting because, this is not your first novel,

but it is your first novel with your actual name on it.

You've written under a pen name before.

I'm wondering -- obviously, you knew

you were the author of those books.

Was it different, writing a book,

knowing that everyone who picked it up

would know it was written by the Stacey Abrams?

-No, I think what was different was knowing people might care.

When I wrote the first eight novels,

Selena Montgomery was much more exciting than Stacey Abrams

and so I'm glad that people will actually pick up a book

because my name is on it,

instead of despite my name being on it.

-This is an idea that you came up with 10 years ago

and publishers passed on it then.

What was it?

Did the times change? Did the circumstances change?

Were people just more excited

that you wanted to put your name on a book?

What changed that made this book a book for today?

-When I first proposed the book and had written it,

I had a corrupt president

who was involved in international intrigue

and a swing justice on the Supreme Court,

who may decide the fate of the world,

and that was dismissed as being too absurdist

and not quite contemporary enough.

So, you know, we had some intervening activities

between 2008 and 2020,

and so, the book suddenly seemed relevant.

-We talked about "Queen's Gambit"

last time you were on the show,

and how wonderful that television show is.

There is a chess element in this as well.

You want to make it clear

you had your chess element 10 years ago.

-I did. I did.

Started writing this in 2008,

long before I knew of the "Queen's Gambit."

-I also want to ask about this.

You have, I believe, five siblings, is that right?

-Yes. -And they work

in very diverse fields, professional fields,

and, yet, they all give you feedback on your books.

Is this feedback that you are open to?

Do you like having siblings like this?

-I am grateful to them when I ask,

I am sometimes grateful when they answer,

but they're an incredible phalanx of really smart people

and that's much cheaper than having to pay an expert

to tell you things, faster than Google.

You get immediate feedback, you can ask more questions,

refine the issues, and you don't have

to press 1 or 2 to get to, you know, an operator.

They just answer when I call.

-You have a federal judge in the family?

That's correct? -I do.

-Is it a biologist?

-Yes. So Jeanine is an evolutionary biologist.

-These are very helpful fields

for the kinds of books you're writing.

-Social worker, an anthropologist.

We run the gamut.

-Is it true -- I believe it was the social worker

that talked you out of a car chase?

-Yes! He cut my scene.

I thought it was fun,

but he literally thought the scene took too long, so.

-Oh, he thought it was just --

he just wanted you to get to what was happening.


-I will say I love a good car chase,

but more on film. -Yes.

-When I'm reading a car chase,

I kind of want to see it a little bit,

so I'm going to side with your brother on that one.

-Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[ Laughter ]

-You guys also have a family book club.

Is this a deal where everybody actually reads the books?

-We do, and we can tell if you haven't,

so what happens is we set a deadline

for doing the book club and then someone calls.

One of us will call our older sister,

who's responsible for convening us,

and somebody has to come up with an excuse

for why they didn't get it done this week.

You don't want to be the person who does it every time,

so you'll have this like

phone tree of, "Well, I did it last time!"

And then, we get Andrea to give us permission

to put off the book club for another week.

-[ Laughs ]

Your mom, a librarian back in the day, correct?

-Yes. Correct. -Does she participate as well?

-She does not, so it's just a sibling book club

and we've heard about the fact that we are

just a sibling book club and we don't include my mother,

so please don't bring it up.

[ Laughter ]

-Is this an active choice, to not have her participate?

What do you think would go wrong, if she was there?

-There are six of us who have a robust conversation

and we read varying degrees of books

and we don't circumscribe our language, always,

in our discussion about plot points.

My mother went from being a librarian to being a pastor,

so I will let you infer from there

-[ Laughs ] -why there might be a problem

with having her on the call the whole time.

-Hey, you know, you've been a guest on this show a lot

and I was very touched by something in the book

because I know you're not on only this late night show.

You've also been on Stephen Colbert,

of whom I'm a great fan, and this is really cool.

In the book, it says, "Nigel rocked slowly.

'The president wasn't pleased with my press conference.

I'm booked on Colbert for tonight's broadcast

and also Seth Meyers.'"

And I just thought it was so cool

that you mentioned us as well.

[ Laughter ]

Meant the world to me.

Because my feelings would've, obviously, been hurt,

if it would've been just like sort of exclusive to Stephen.

-You're anticipating -- look, there's going to be a show

about the book.

You assumed that I was just going to put both of you

in competition.

I like to keep things separate.

-Well, this is true.

I want to talk about this as well.

The book is, we just found out today,

going to be a television show.

Is that something that you had ever thought possible,

when you were first sitting down to write it?

-No. I mean, look,

I was surprised somebody finally published it,

so getting a TV show in this century is awesome.

But, no, I love television, as you know,

and I'm just very excited that Working Title

and Universal are excited about doing this with me.

-I feel like a difference between this visit

to you on our show and previous times

is your backdrop now seems very professional to me.

-Oh, thank you. -I feel like I've seen you a lot

in your home, maybe in sort of a nondescript office,

and now, this is very showbiz. It's amazing.

The minute your book gets optioned,

look at your background.

[ Laughter ]

-I've also been double vaxxed, man, so I can go outside.

[ Laughter ]

-Can you tell us any reason

to not be pessimistic and depressed

about how effectively Republican state legislatures seem

to be passing voter suppression bills?

-I think we should be concerned, we should pay attention,

but we've also been very effective.

We've seen some of the worst pieces come out of those bills

and, even though they continue to pass,

more and more people are aware of it.

And we still have time for Congress to take actions

and it's working on it right now

and I believe that we can actually have democracy

that is free and fair and accessible to all,

so, I'm going to keep pushing.

-You have been -- we've shown clips of you here --

very effective when you've gone

in front of Senate committees,

when you've gone in front of House committees.

How much preparation do you have to put into those appearances

and how much of it is just, at this point,

you know your stuff and there's nothing to worry about?

-I'm generally up to speed.

You know, before I did the last Senate appearance,

I did ask my team to give me as much detail as they could.

Luckily, I was able to retain that information in time

for some questions that wanted sort of a list of challenges.

But I am incredibly grateful to the Fair Fight team.

They keep me well prepped.

I mean, they're like my siblings,

only, we pay them to do their work.

-Now that you are known as, obviously,

not just an advocate for voting rights,

but also as an author of fiction,

do you feel like people in D.C. are now a little worried that,

if they behave in a way that is both bad and memorable,

they will become fictionalized in one of your books?

-Given that my colleagues at the state legislature

occasionally found themselves in the book

and the current speaker of the House for the Georgia House is

in "While Justice Sleeps" --

he knew about it 10 years ago,

he's still in there --

I just warn people, "You may be in the book

and you might die."

[ Laughter ]

-That's very nice.

But that doesn't necessarily mean --

Now, if someone is represented in one of your books

and they die, that sometimes is just you serving the plot.

-Absolutely. -That is not a negative comment

on their personality.

-Absolutely. Or they were in the car chase

and they got cut out, so, there you go.

-Yeah, a fate worse than death is getting cut out,

which, thank God, didn't happen to me

because I made it in the book.

There it is right there, proof.

[ Laughter ] See? It's so great.

Where do you do your writing?

Because I feel like that's the thing

that is most interesting to people

who can't believe that anyone could sit down and write a book.

What is your perfect situation?

-So I have a secretary desk.

You pull it out and it lays flat.

Put my laptop on top and start writing.

Or my dining room table.

Depends on how good the light is,

whether I can actually get to the desk

because it's covered with stuff.

Wherever my computer will fit, that is where I sit to write.

-And, when you write, do you tend to do a lot at once

or are you someone who grabs an hour here or there?

Because I find I need a lot of uninterrupted time,

just to percolate.

-I usually have half a day to a day set aside

I will schedule to write because, for me,

writer's block isn't that I can't think of it.

It's, "I don't want to do it.

I don't like words anymore.

I don't want to write it. Never mind,"

and then I've got to give myself time to get past that

and then to sit down and do my work.

-And are there times where you sort of break

maybe a plot problem you had

or you find a way of saying something that delights you?

Do you celebrate it all while you're writing

or do you know in the moment like, "Oh, yeah,

this is a really good one, right here"?

-No, I will get happy.

I had one book, not "While Justice Sleeps" --

I had another book where my character

was supposed to be going out onto a cliff

and she ended up in a cave and I had no idea why she was there

and it took like three days to figure it out.

When I realized why she was there,

it made perfect sense, so I sometimes have to wait

for the plot to reveal itself to me in greater detail.

-And how much do they come to you with the cover of a book?

Like how many different versions do you see before you sign off?

-This was actually the very first cover they recommended.

I thought it was evocative of the story

and it was really awesome to see my name on the book.

But I really loved the colors.

I just thought it was a really well done cover

and the team at Doubleday has been amazing to work with.

-On the Selena Montgomery books,

was there no author photo on the back of the book jacket?

-Oh, no, no. My face is in every one of my books.

When I say that nobody cared, this was not self-deprecation.

Just nobody cared.

[ Laughter ]

-It was something like this, but just, right here,

it said "Selena Montgomery"?


And then, if you look at the copyright,

it said "Stacey Abrams."

[ Laughter ]

-I feel like they're going to pull you

in front of the Senate for that.

-[ Laughs ] -I feel like they're going to have

a lot of questions about that. [ Laughter ]

-I will refer them to this show for answers

because that's what everyone should do.

-Oh, well, it'll be nice for you to talk about this show.

[ Laughter ]

-I will talk about this show so much from now on.

-Stacey, if that's your real name,

[ Laughter ] it is always a delight to see you.

Congratulations on the book.

-Seth, thank you so much and thank you for being

so generous and such a tremendous show.

[ Laughter ]

-Nice try.

"While Justice Sleeps" is available now

wherever books are sold, but please support

your local and independent bookstores.

The Description of Stacey Abrams’ Novel, While Justice Sleeps, Was Over a Decade in the Making