Saturday, 21 September 2013

An Interview With Author Robert Lamb

Author Robert Lamb stops by today to chat...

An Interview with Robert Lamb

Why don't you begin by sharing a bit about yourself? 

Born in South Carolina, I grew up in Georgia, graduated from the University of Georgia, worked first in journalism, and then went into college teaching, mainly creative writing, at the University of South Carolina. I'm married and have four children. I now write full-time and I also review books for the New York Journal of Books.

You've recently finished a novella and a new novel. Care to share a bit about these new books? 

The short one, titled And Tell Tchaikovsky the News, is about the redemptive powers of rock 'n' roll. The other one, Journey's End, is about the corrosive effects of suicide on a woman's child and husband. 

You've previously written several books and short stories. Do you find an overriding or common theme or any recurring motifs that infuses your writing?  

Yes. I didn't see it at first in my writing career, but the main recurring theme in what I write is loss: loss of innocence, loss of a loved one, loss of faith, loss of hope, etc.             

With a long repertoire of books, such as Atlanta Blues, A Majority of OneStriking Out,  and Six of One, Half Dozen of Another, how do you think your writing has evolved from one book to the next? 

I don't see that kind of continuity in my writing -- that is, I don't see the evolution of a familiar writing voice moving from one novel to the next. Put it this way: I have four sons; each is different from the others though all came from the same father. Same with the novels I've written. Each novel seems to be its own entity, to have its own story to tell; finding the right voice to tell that story -- or, rather, finding the voice inside me that wants most to tell that story -- is a big challenge. An example: My first novel was a coming-of-age story. The protagonist was age 17; I wrote it in my 40s. Believe me, it took me a while to find, or rediscover, that teenage voice to tell that story.

Having written both novels and short stories, do you have a preference for one form above the other, or do they both have equal merits? 

As both a writer and reader, I much prefer the greater range of the novel form, but I do like both. As to merit, however, I find both forms equally demanding, each in its own way. I can tell you this: a short story isn't short simply because it's not long. In other words, a successful short story is not the result of the author's not having the time to stretch it out to novel length; it is, rather, that it is complete in its short form. To go on would spoil it. 

 Is there anything about the process of writing you find particularly challenging? 

No, except perhaps this: I knew how to write long before I knew how to write a novel. As with any craft, know-how is very helpful. A simple tip like "Start your story with the day that was different, the day after which nothing was ever the same again" came as a complete (and liberating) surprise to me. So how smart was that? I might add that I've never had writer's block. When I've got a story going, I can't wait to get to it each day. 

What first sparked your interest in a career as a writer? 

I can trace my love of stories to hearing them read at my mother's knee. As to writing my own stories, I believe I'm simply following a natural bent, a facility with language. I said again and again to my students, "Man is the speech animal, and each of is as different from each other as fingerprints, as individual as snowflakes. Each of us has a unique voice. Find yours. Use it." 

Who are some of your favorite authors? Some of your favorite books? 

I admire many writersranging from Shakespeare to Jane Austen to Hemingway to Tennessee Williams, but Thomas Hardy is my favorite author and W. Somerset Maugham my favorite storyteller.

What’s next on your horizons? 

I'd like to try my hand at writing a screenplay. Now there's a difficult art form!

You can check out more on Robert Lamb at his website:

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