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B.J. Novak's Hilarious Debut Story Collection

Photo by Jennifer Rocholl

We all know B.J. Novak's adorable face from The Office, but now the actor, screenwriter, director, and executive producer is adding short story writer to his ever-growing list of talents. In his debut book, One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories (released by Knopf on Feb. 4), he tells oddball tales of friendships, missed connections, historic roasts, celebrity intel, and more. From a retelling of the classic children's story The Tortoise and the Hare to a made-up "Best Things in the World Awards," Novak shares his insights about the world through his gifted (and often comical) point of view. We sat down with the author to chat about the book that will have you chuckling at nearly every page. See him in person for a City Arts & Lectures Q&A with KQED's Paul Lancour.

What made you want to write a book?
I was transfixed by certain ideas I had and wasn’t sure what else to do with them. I had this idea for jagged lengths of stories and really wanted to inject some fun into the short story from my point of view.

How or where do story ideas usually come to you?
I’m often in my own head, and people complain to me that I’m not paying attention, but that’s usually when I’m having my best ideas. I’m also very romantic about long walks on the beach … by myself. I come up with a lot of ideas that way.

How did you determine the order of your stories?
I wanted the book to feel jagged—we even have the jagged edge on the printed page— and I really wanted to mix up lengths and tones so the reader is never really sure where the story is going to go next.

Tips for getting published?
Write for the kid sitting next to you. That was the key for me and my own drive, and that’s the advice I give to anyone who wants to write anything these days. Today young writers listen to people who they hope are experts—MFA teachers, books on screenwriting. And while there are books on everything, you should really be looking at who your readers are and what they want to read—what book they want to fall on their laps and what movies they want to watch when they get home.

Elevator pitch for the book?
This will make you smile but not in the way you think.

What will your next book be?
I have a children’s book coming out in September called The Book With No Pictures. The follow-up to One More Thing will be a more ambitious book in this same short story direction. I have a lot of stories that I didn’t have the confidence to tell before.

RAPID FIRE Q&A

Introvert or extrovert?
Bipolar. Introvert until I burst and become an extrovert.

Burger or burrito?
I hate burritos because of the rice. If I could choose tacos, I would.

Stay in or go out?
Stay in.

Live audiences—nerve-wracking or exciting?
Both of course.

Stage fright?
Only when I’m not sure about what I’m going to perform. If I believe in what I’m doing, then stage confidence.

Three words that sum up your life.
You never know.

B.J. Novak in conversation with Paul Lancour for City Arts & Lectures, 7:30 p.m., Thurs. 2/13, Nourse Theater, 275 Hayes St., cityarts.net