Today marks a new (hopefully weekly) feature of my blog: the Author Spotlight. Sometimes it’s nice to hear other writer’s journeys and their keen insights on the craft. I’ve asked each of them a few questions, and I hope you’ll find their answers helpful as I do.
I particularly like some of Douglas Bauer’s answers today, specifically on the habit of the work and the unsettled feeling he gets from not writing. Well said, Mr. Bauer. Without further ado, on to the interview.
ADG: Tell us a bit about yourself, how long you’ve been writing, what types of writing you do, etc.
DB: I’ve been writing for forty years. I began as a magazine journalist, working free-lance and specializing in profiles, the coverage of events ranging from political conventions to professional football training camps. In those years I worked frequently for The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Harper’s and others. At a point, I felt the strong wish to write a book, and my first was a non-fiction account of a year I spent living again in the small Iowa town where I was raised. It’s called Prairie City, and hence the name of the book: Prairie City, Iowa: Three Seasons at Home.
DB: After that, I grew increasingly interested in writing fiction and enrolled in a graduate program at SUNY, Albany, studying mostly with the great William Kennedy, before he’d been discovered thanks to his novel Ironweed. To make a long circuitous path sound straighter, I studied, taught, and wrote fiction for some years until my first novel, Dexterity, was published. It was followed by two more novels, The Very Air and The Book of Famous Iowans.
ADG: Why did you decide to become a writer?
DB: Flannery O’Connor was reputed to have said in answer to that question, "Because I’m good at it." I would somewhat more humbly say that I became a writer because I have always written and my days feel cockeyed and unsettled if several of them go by without my having written.
ADG: What is the one piece of writing advice you wish you’d had at the beginning of your career.
DB: Perhaps this: to be sure you get reward from the daily habit of doing it, since that’s the only reward you can be guaranteed of.
ADG: What are you currently working on? Any special projects?
I’m just beginning research for a novel set primarily in 1927. I always feel I’d be jinxing myself to talk a lot about what I’m either about to or am presently working on, so I’ll leave it at that. I can add that my second novel, The Very Air, was also set in the distant past, the 20s and 30s, and I loved the work of research for it. I fully assume I’ll love it again this time.
ADG: What do you have coming out next? What do your fans have to look forward to.
DB: I have a book of personal essays, called What Happens Next?, coming out in September. They deal primarily with the cheery subject of one’s mortality — which is to say, mine — but they move around in time and tone, (some of the pieces are humorous in intent), examining my parents’ fascinating and confounding marriage (at least to me) and also reconciling my relationship to my home place (or trying to) — that same tiny Iowa town, which I know I carry with me, but which I had to move away from in order to live freely. While the upcoming book is indeed a gathering of personal essays, they are written and ordered so that they form a traceable, single narrative thread. In other words, they can be read individually, or, as I hope, from beginning to end with a sense of the story building and evolving.
ADG: How can my readers find out more about you and your work?
They can go the the University of Iowa Press website for now. I’m currently in the process of having a website made, which should be up and running by the end of July.