The Craft: Author interviews

Call of the Siren proudly presents an ongoing series of interviews with writers on novel-writing, translation, poetry, nonfiction, and much more. These may not be exactly like those wonderful, lengthy Paris Review interviews in which writers discuss their process in terrific detail, but they’re not too shabby either.

The organizing principle for this ever-evolving, ever-growing collection of interviews is a simple question: What writer doesn’t appreciate the insights of other writers on their craft? The nuts and bolts of many professions can be very dull, but that isn’t true of writing, as the following interviews may suggest.

Enjoy, my friends.



raymond jacobs‘So here, now, is my testament’: Q & A with poet Raymond Jacobs

Jacobs writes long-form poetry with firm roots in autobiographical soil.  This interview looks at his work as well as his determination to continue producing — and publishing — poetry in a marketplace where attention (and money) is mostly being devoted to blockbuster thrillers and mysteries.  His insights are truly inspiring.



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The Writing Life: Something From Mary: 

 Gaitskill is an acclaimed novelist and short story writer (Two Girls, Fat and Thin; Veronica; Bad Behavior) whose stories defy boundaries of all kinds — societal, personal, gender — and have earned her a National Book Award nomination, among other honors. She’s also very accommodating and open about the craft of writing, in general and as it pertains to her own art. That’s what I discovered when we had a chance to sit down and discuss some of the lessons she’s learned over time.




Literary Exits: Nicholas Delbanco on artistic lives cut short 

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 2.52.50 PMDelbanco moves with immense ease between fiction and nonfiction. Two necessary titles for your bookshelves are his Sherbrookes (a novel that collects and recasts an earlier trilogy of his as a single work of fiction) and Group Portrait, his fascinating study of the dynamics surrounding a group of writers that includes Stephen Crane and Joseph Conrad. A third title that you might also consider is his recent study, The Art of Youth. In our interview, which examines the contents of this book, Delbanco discusses the creative impulse in the works of several artists whose lives were cut short.




Part One: A tightly-controlled world: A.R. Williams on ‘The Camellia Resistance’

Part Two: ‘You have to want the story’: A.R. Williams on writing


In this two-part conversation, A.R. Williams describes the creation of her novel of a dystopian world and the lessons that she learned in the process of composition. Part One examines how she managed to produce a unique vision of a future world that doesn’t relay on all the Hunger Games-type tales that are in the marketplace.

Part Two offers some great insights into the process, especially the patience that’s as vital as the actual writing itself. I learned a lot. I think you will, too.





Translating the Translator: A talk with Andrew Frisardi about his version of Dante’s Vita Nova


Frisardi is a premier translator of Italian poets (Ungaretti, Alighieri) who worked with me on several assignments at the Los Angeles Times. It’s a real blessing to have a first-tier translator share insights into an aspect of modern literature that’s sometimes easy to overlook.

Why is that so? Because the art of translation, when it’s accomplished at the level of Frisardi’s work, becomes nearly transparent: We forget the language barrier and hear the writer’s voice, plaintive and clear.





What does poetry mean? A talk with Michael Odom


Odom is a brilliant practitioner of modern poetry in his own right and as a translator of others. “Density” is a term that, outside of the realm of science, seems to have a very pejorative ring to it. Nobody wants to be considered “dense.” That’s not the case with poetry. I once heard the late Frank Kermode explain the rich, dense layerings in T.S. Eliot’s poetry that produced a  brilliant friction among the images; the same is true of Odom’s verse, which achieves a density evocative, to me, of the very best in Dylan Thomas.





‘I’m still looking for the answers’: An interview with Ross King



King, like Nicholas Delbanco (see entry above), moves easily between the worlds of fiction and nonfiction, between the dynamic present and the historical past (Ex Libris, Domino, Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling).  In this interview, Ross describes his perspectives on writing history (as well as fiction) and how many challenges remain the same regardless of the genre. As always, he’s instructive and generous with his insights in this interview as he is in his many published works and commentaries.

4 responses

  1. Pingback: Literary exits: Nicholas Delbanco on artistic lives cut short | Call of the Siren

  2. Pingback: Don’t even publish your book: Tolkien’s option « Call of the Siren

  3. Pingback: On writing: Grace in the Madness « Call of the Siren

  4. Pingback: Delbanco’s centaur « Call of the Siren

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