Saturday, May 16, 2009


Five Questions for Steve Almond
Interview conducted by Andrew Ucci

AU: I admire your narrative voice. How did you go about developing that?
SA: I really just try to tell the truth about the stuff that matters to me most deeply. I'm not trying to "find" a voice so much as to tell the right stories. It's those stories that create a voice.

AU: The author must find an audience for his work. When you write, do you try to engage an intended audience, or do you instead let the audience find you and your work?
SA: I think authors of literary fiction really need to find their stories, the characters they care about. That's what matters. The audience comes later, if at all. But you can't worry about who's going to read your work while you're writing it. That pulls you out of the art, and into commerce. When I'm writing to make money, for a publication, obviously I have to think about their needs. But when it's my own stuff, I'm loyal to my characters, first and last.

AU: Do you find young or new writers getting hung up on the same things in their development? Or is it rather more of a case by case basis?
SA: Less experienced writers tend to make the same set of mistakes: they withhold information from the reader and overwrite and cast about in search of a plot and fall into summary -- all problems that arise from insecurity.

AU: Is art, for many, a coping mechanism?
SA: "A coping mechanism" makes it sound a bit diagnostic. I'd say it like this: certain people feel the need to get the stuff inside them out into the world, and art provides the most imaginative and beautiful way. It doesn't make the artist happy all the time (consider Van Gogh), but helps them deal with unbearable feelings.

AU: When you begin a new story, where do you begin?
SA: That's really a case-by-case basis. Sometimes it's an idea, or a line of dialogue, or an image. But the good stories always revolve around the stuff that I'm obsessed with. That's how it works for me -- I have to care passionately, I find, or the reader wouldn't give a damn.