Interview with Edward Stanton

Interview with Edward Stanton

What genre do you write and why?  I write in various genres, but my latest book, the novel Wide as the Wind, is for Young Adult readers and older.

Interview with Edward Stanton
Tell us about your latest book.  Wide as the Wind is the first novel to deal with the stunning, tragic history of Easter Island.  It could be described as quest fiction in the line of Tolkien’s Hobbit, but it’s set in the real world, not Middle-earth.  Wide as the Windis a story of love and adventure that portrays Polynesian voyages across the Pacific Ocean in canoes with no metal parts or instruments: the greatest enterprise in human prehistory, as bold as modern space voyages (National Geographic).

What did you edit out of this book?  Many pages.

How was this book published? (traditional, small press, self pub, etc...)  Why did you choose that particular publishing route?  Wide as the Wind was published by Open Books Press, an indie in St. Louis, MO.  I chose it because it had a good list and a superb editor/publisher.

How do you select the names of your characters?  I selected the names of the characters for Wide as the Wind by studying Easter Island (Rapa Nui) language, history and geography.  One character is named “Ihu,” which means “nose, snout, cape (promontory), prow of a canoe”; in the novel I gave him a prominent nose.

What marketing methods are you using to promote your book? A publicist, print ads (The New Yorker), promotions by the publisher on Twitter and Facebook, book signings, radio interviews.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad or good ones?  I do read my book reviews.  I deal with the good ones by forwarding them to my publisher for use in promotions.  I try to learn from the bad ones.

Do you Google yourself?  No, it’s easier and less indulgent to simply use Google Alerts.

What formats is the book available in?  Print and electronic (Kindle, etc.).

Who are your favourite authors?  Catullus, Dante, Cervantes, The Bard, Samuel Johnson (and Boswell), Mark Twain, Federico García Lorca, Curzio Malaparte, Giuseppe di Lampedusa, Marguerite Yourcenar, Mario Vargas Llosa, Jhumpa Lahiri.

What advice do you have for other writers?  Only write if you need to, if you cannot imagine a life without it.  If you have faith in your vision and your skin is thick enough to embrace rejection, keep writing.  If not, don’t kill yourself.

What's your favourite quote about writing/for writers?  “The first draft of anything is shit” (attributed to Hemingway, but I’ve never found it anywhere in his books or correspondence).

What's the best thing about being a writer?  As a writer of nonfiction, to research the facts—especially important in a period when the Liar-in-Chief and his minions don’t believe in facts.  As a writer of fiction, the best thing is being able to create an entire world.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing?

Who is you favourite character in your book and why?  The protagonist Miru, a young boy of fifteen who sets out to save his island.  He reminds me of the brave young boys and girls in the March for Our Lives movement, who’ve gotten a raw deal from their elders and have set out to change that on their own.

Why do you think readers are going to enjoy your book?  Because Wide as the Wind is, to my knowledge, the first novel to dramatize the life of a people whose habitat has been destroyed.  The combination of a good story and a powerful message makes for good fiction.  The story is compelling and I trust the writing is good.

How long did it take you to write your book?  The first draft had a gestation longer than the elephant’s (22 months).  The second and third drafts were about the speed of the Java Rhino’s gestation (19 months). 

Who designed the cover?  My talented publisher.

Did you learn anything from writing your book that was unexpected?  That writing fiction is even harder than nonfiction.

Interview with Edward StantonWhere can a reader purchase your book?  All the usual places: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, the publisher (Open Books Press).

What are you doing to market the book?  Same answer as for question about marketing methods (above): publicist, print ads (The New Yorker), promotions by publisher on Twitter and Facebook, book signings, radio interviews.

Who inspires you?  My lovely wife, who’s also my best editor and a writer herself.

When and where do you write?  Mornings at my study desk.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?  First time I’ve ever seen that word.  I don’t think any good book, painting, sculpture or musical composition can be created only “by the seat of the pants.”  There must be a concept or intuition at the start; it may change along the way, but it shapes and carries the work.

Do you believe in writers block?  Yes, but it’s rarely stopped me for long.  If you sit down at your desk every day, the words will come.  If they don’t, you’re in the wrong métier.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?  You’re going to have to be more patient than you think.

How do you research your books?  By using the Web as little as possible.  There’s no substitute for books and documents in libraries and archives.

What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.  I’m usually working on more than one book at a time.  (Not a half-dozen or more, like Sir Richard F. Burton.)  Right now it’s a literary thriller set in Argentina after the Dirty War, and a travel memoir set in Mexico and Spain.

What are your thoughts on self-publishing verses traditional publishing?  My experience is that nearly any book worth its salt will find a publisher.

Who or what inspired you to become a writer?  It happened when I was so young (maybe 9-10 years old) that I can’t explain it.  Maybe it was when I finished reading Tom Sawyer in the fifth grade and played hooky from school the next day.

Does your family support you in your writing career? How?  Yes, but like good parents, mine were also very practical in their support.  My dad advised me to continue writing but to complete a Ph.D. in order to have a career that would support the writing.  He was right.

What are you currently reading? Amit Majmudar’s new translation of the Bhagavad-Gita, Godsong; and Hagakure, Book of the Samurai.

What are some of your all time favourite books?  Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching; The Divine Comedy; Tom Sawyer; The Leopard (Lampedusa); Memoires of Hadrian.

What is your favourite book you've read this year so far?  Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Are.

What books or authors have most influenced your life?  Tao Te Ching; The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?  Caring for bonsai trees.  This may seem remote from writing, but books come from trees.  Not from mine, however.


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