Published March 8, 2021

Alec MacGillis, author of Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America, is a senior reporter for ProPublica and the recipient of the George Polk Award, the Robin Toner prize, and other honors. He is the author of The Cynic, a 2014 biography of Mitch McConnell. He lives in Baltimore. Learn more at Propublica.org/people/alec-macgillis.

Get to know Alec in this Q&A and then join us on Wednesday, March 17, at 7 PM ET as part of the all-virtual 2021 Virginia Festival of the Book to hear him discuss his work in The Human Cost of One-Click Orders.

Festival: What motivated you to become a writer and journalist? 

MacGillis: Growing up with two parents who passed on the love of writing and reading: my father, a newspaper editor, and my mother, a high-school English teacher.

Who or what are some of your creative influences?

The writers who do immersive reporting in worlds other than their own, like Anthony Lukas, Kate Boo, and Patrick Radden Keefe, as well as fiction writers whose work is infused with a quiet morality, like John Gardner, Willa Cather, Alice Munro, and Joyce’s Dubliners.

What was the most difficult part about writing your latest book?

Landing on the proper balance between writing about Amazon itself and the broader problem of regional inequality.

Do you have any sources of inspiration that you come back to while writing?

The voices and experience of the people I’m writing about, which remind me that they demand to be known.

What impact or takeaway do you hope your work will have for readers? 

To make them more aware of our growing regional divides in economic fortunes and how they came to be; and to encourage them to re-engage with the physical, face-to-face world rather than the virtual.

Describe how a book changed your life or perspective.

I was raised as a proud New Englander and part of my awakening at college and in the years following was discovering the rest of America. One region that I’ve become especially drawn to is central Appalachia. And part of that broadening of perspective was reading the stories of Breece D’J Pancake.

What is something that you’ve read recently and would recommend to others?

Jill Leovy’s Ghettoside, one of the best books written on the problem of urban violence in America.

What are you working on next?

I am considering books on the global coal industry and on my hometown of Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

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