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Hardboiled crime fiction came of age in 'Black Mask' magazine during the Twenties and Thirties. Writers like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler learnt their craft and developed a distinct literary style and attitude toward the modern world.
The past is a stronger influence in the South. But I think everywhere you have this sense that the world changes faster than you can accommodate yourself to. Looking back and seeing how you got where you are is a useful way to combat disorientation.
While writing 'Cold Mountain,' I held maps of two geographies, two worlds, in my mind as I wrote. One was an early map of North Carolina. Overlaying it, though, was an imagined map of the landscape Jack travels in the southern Appalachian folktales. He's much the same Jack who climbs the beanstalk, vulnerable and clever and opportunistic.
If I had to give up reading or give up listening to music, I suspect I'd stick with the music.
One time at the University of Colorado, at a faculty dinner, this professor said to me, 'Well, my goodness, a boy from Appa-lay-chee-a with a Ph.D!' The dinner was in her house. And I said, 'My grandparents didn't have indoor plumbing, but they had more books in their house than you do.' I was a little insulted by the Appa-lay-chee-a business.
I've always thought Harper Lee might have made a great decision. Much as you'd like to have more books by her, there's something about just one that's kind of mysterious and nice. On the other hand, the New York gossip about me was that I'd never write another book. So I thought, 'Well, I will then.'
Publishers give you deadlines for those last phases of production that are perfectly comfortable for them. So, to whatever extent I can, I like to push those to give me a little more time, and make it so that they're as uncomfortable as I am.
I do the same things I did when I was 12 years old: I ride bikes, I read books, I walk in the woods. And I listen to music.
People who are isolated interest me, whether they isolate themselves or have been isolated by circumstances.
Well, I'm a slow writer. For me, a good day is a page, maybe a page and a half. I'd love to be more efficient, but I am not.
I've lived out West some... I've always liked the High Plains areas - eastern Colorado, eastern Wyoming, western Nebraska.
The Sixties were different in an isolated place. We got two television channels if the wind was blowing in the right direction. The radio stations went off at sundown. Then you picked up Chicago and heard the teenage music you really yearned for.
I remember my father checking on a mountain kid who hadn't been coming to school. My father had this beautiful Harris tweed overcoat. He came back with a knife cut all down one side. The parents had told him it was none of his business why their son wasn't going to school.
I had never taken creative writing classes. Hadn't even considered it.
I was 46 when 'Cold Mountain' came out. I was settled. We had a nice house in Raleigh and a horse farm.
I've never been very attached to genre labels and never set out intentionally to write historic fiction. Besides, what you consider historic depends on how far back your memory extends.
It always helps me connect with characters, to think about what music they respond to.
I met people when we lived down in Raleigh who'd ask where I grew up, and I'd say about two hours west of Asheville, and they'd say they didn't know there was any North Carolina two hours west of Asheville. It was in many ways an isolated place.
Writing doesn't come real easy to me. I couldn't write a novel in a year. It wouldn't be readable. I don't let an editor even look at it until the second year, because it would just scare them. I just have to trust that all these scraps and dead-ends will find a way.
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Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something.
Isaac Bashevis Singer
H. P. Lovecraft
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