excerpts from Tom Perotta interview

There are things I’d like to post about, including my day in Texas, my visit to the IRON MAN set (part 2), and, the other night, the birthday party held in a rented-out nightclub for the film producer I blogged about earlier (“Octavius”).

But again, no time, so it’s easier just to copy out favorite bits from this Writer’s Digest interview with Tom Perotta (LITTLE CHILDREN, ELECTION):

“…some of the more public novels have surfaced through an interest in politics. ELECTION emerged from wanting to write about the 1992 Presidential election, and THE ABSTINENCE TEACHER came from the 2004 election and just wanting to try and understand the cultural divide in America and who those people on the other side if that divide are.”

“…Often the new writing takes place in a blurt from 1 to 3 pm. I don’t even care what it looks like. Sometimes, of course, you’ve worked into it, and here comes the great dialogue, the climactic scene, etc. But most of the time it’s the same basic thing: struggle, guilt, a little productivity, and then I’m done. That’s the day.”

“…I thought only my hardcore fans would come out [to the reading]. And I had this funny image in my head of all these hip college kids coming to the reading, but instead it was 40-year-old guys, not particularly hip looking, but totally my dedicated readers. It was a surprise to me, and a reality check: Maybe I’m not as hip as I think I am.”

“No matter what, at some point in your career, you’re going to get stepped on as a writer, and, in most cases, it’s the insanely persevering people who succeed. MFA program or not, there’s some irrepressible characteristic in those who succeed as writers.”

“I’ve had an old-fashioned career. LITTLE CHILDREN was my breakthrough book and it was my fifth. But some people I’ve met at conferences and some of my students have had the music-business type of experience where they’ve gotten the big advance on their first work and it’s like, this is your shot.
As a writer, you’d like to keep doing it your whole life and, of course, it’s near impossible to say no to a big advance, but it’s not necessarily a healthy model. It’s very rare to see someone in the normal business world get a high-paying job out of college and then take a dramatic pay cut while staying in that same industry.
You’ve got to have the inner strength to say, “I’m good,” no matter what your book is doing or not doing, and move on to the next project. I just think it’s easier to handle that sort of thing when you’re older.”


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