The Paris Review Interview – Saturday WE Exercise

This week's Saturday Writing Essentials exercise is to write about writing including, possibly, our own experiences. It can be fiction. I leave it to you to decide whether I've fictionalized my experiences in this case or not.

I thought the easiest way (easy for me) to talk about my writing life is just to reprint the recent Paris Review Interview with me.1.


Were you surprised by the sudden overwhelming success of your novel The Hero Thing?

Charles Thiesen
"Sudden"! Ha.2. I worked on selling that novel for five years after I finished it – longer than it took to write it. I burned through 57 agents before I found the right one. But she loved the novel and her support (and of course her selling the book to Knopf for seven figures) made it all worthwhile.

But you still live in a co-op house in Dorchester, Massachusetts. How much has your life actually changed?

Charles Thiesen
My life has changed in wonderful ways.3. I don't have to charge my housemates rent, though I own the house. I travel all the time – Paris, Venice, Melbourne, Kyoto, Bali – so I don't have to spend much time at home. But more important than that, I think, is the fact that I, myself, have not changed at all. I've always been the warm, and caring person you see before you now. And I have remained deeply loyal to my friends no matter how inconsequential and unimportant they may be.

Yes, it's widely known that you continue your membership in a social networking web site and still cultivate friendships there.

Charles Thiesen
Ah, Gather! It's a nice site, but I have to say it's not anything like it was in its heyday, the month or so after I joined. I have maintained many friendships there. Some of those people even have my actual physical address. (Fortunately I'm traveling most of the time.)

Do you get pleasure from being recognized now as one of the great writers of our time?

Charles Thiesen
How can I deny that. Take gather again. It's vindicating to find that the people who disregarded my writing advice when I was nothing, beg now for the slightest encouraging word from me. Of course, most of them can't write at all. (Don't tell them I said that.)

You do know that this will be published in Paris Review?

Charles Thiesen
Don't make me laugh. Those folks read the Paris Review?4..


There you have it. Charles Thiesen's writing life. (Maybe I should maybe have cut that a little earlier?)

1. After I read the assignment, I immediately got up to work in the garden. It was on the way downstairs that it occurred to me to write this as if I were already a wildly successful novelist (instead of waiting until it happens).

The idea of doing it as a Paris Review interview came just before I sat down to actually write it this evening. I was writing an email to some of this group's participants about something entirely unrelated and, as I finished that and thought of this, that idea occurred to me.

2. This bit came to me when I was on break from gardening, lying on my face on the grass and thinking about the assignment.

3. This bit came to me when I was lying on my back on the grass on a later break.

4. The rest of it came together as I wrote it. Then of course I rewrote endlessly for hours and hours and hours. (Ten minutes. There aren't that many words to rewrite.)

About the Author ()

Not going gentle into that good nothin'. Riding my recumbent bicycle everywhere.Bouncily enthusiastic about reading, writing, and music of all kinds.Wishing I could get back to Venice.

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