This week, I’m happy to have the chance to interview Stuart Albright. This North Carolina author writes gritty realism, and his newest novel, BULL CITY, kept me on the edge of my seat.
1. When did you start writing?
I’ve always enjoyed writing, starting with angst-y love poetry when I was in high school (every year, I read one of my own love poems from age 17 to my creative writing students before I ask them to read their own poetry out loud, as a way to ease their own anxieties.) My writing evolved as a creative writing minor at UNC, where I was exposed to some amazing faculty members. My first book, Blessed Returns, began in chapter form at this time.
2. Are you a pantser or a planner?
Panster? I had to google that one. I kind of like that term. I’m more of a planner, starting with a basic framework for a story but being open-minded enough to let the writing send my plans in directions I never could have predicted in advance. I think this is one of the beautiful things about art, if an artist truly lets their creativity run free.
3. Can you give us an idea of your writing process?
I rarely begin with the end in mind, but I cannot immerse myself in a story until I have characters who are worth hanging out with for a year plus, and I usually have several big ideas floating around that excite me. For my new book, Bull City, I began with a rather loaded question: Do we live in a post-racial America? I choose four main characters – two African American, one Pakistani, and one white – to explore this question in various ways.
4. Which authors have influenced your work?
Almost too many to count. Let’s see: Pat Conroy, Dennis Lehane, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Khaled Hosseini, Charles Frazier, Tom Wolfe (as well as Thomas Wolfe), John Irving, David Guterson, Ian McEwan, Buzz Bissinger, Jonathan Kozol. Whenever I find a writer who moves me in some way, I try to read everything they have published.
5. What are you plans/future projects/new releases that we should be aware of?
I just released my third book, Bull City, at the beginning of the summer (see http://www.stuartalbright.com for more details.) I’ve been pretty good about consistently writing a book every three years or so, but we’ll see how that changes now that my wife is expecting our second child in early September. It’s been hard enough carving time to write with a two year old; adding another boy into the mix will definitely keep me on my toes. I’m about 7,000 words into book four, a nonfiction take on teenagers and the ways in which stereotypes about this age group are becoming more and more obsolete. Bull City is filled with stories that were drawn from my high school classes, and this new book will be even more directly focused on what it means to be a teenager today.
6. Any tips for new writers?
Writing is hard work, and it requires discipline. Find a set time and place to write and stick to a routine. If you wait for inspiration to fall in your lap from the creative Muses, you will never complete a project. Sometimes I sit in front of the computer screen and the words come easily. Other times it is hell on earth. But like a sculptor, you can’t mold clay if there is nothing to work with.
7. Any tips for old writers?
Allow yourself to be happy in other areas of your life outside of writing. Fall in love. Take the time to soak in the beauty of a crisp fall day. Fill yourself up emotionally so that your body is fortified for whatever writing task is at hand.
Find out more about Stuart at http://www.stuartalbright.com/