• Q&A with WriteByNight Consultant Tom Andes

     

    Tom Andes, writing coach and consultant

    Tom Andes (New Orleans, Louisiana) was born and raised in Southern New Hampshire, and has lived on both coasts and in New Orleans. His fiction has appeared in Witness, News from the Republic of Letters, Best American Mystery Stories 2012, and elsewhere. His essays, reviews, and interviews with writers and musicians have appeared in periodicals including the Los Angeles Review of Books, Bookslut, and The Rumpus. He wrote the fiction chapbook Life Before the Storm and Other Stories (Cannibal Books, 2010) and he currently has a story collection in manuscript making the round of contests and small presses. He has been a resident at Ragdale and the Vermont Studio Center, and he has taught creative writing privately, as well as at San Francisco State University, the Walker Percy Center for Writing and Publishing at Loyola University New Orleans, and the ADVANCE Camp for Young Scholars.

     

     

    Where are you from?

    I grew up in Southern New Hampshire, less than an hour from the Atlantic Ocean, but I’ve lived all over since then, mostly in the Bay Area and New Orleans.

     

    Where did you study?

    I attended Loyola University New Orleans (BA, 1999) and San Francisco State University (MA, 2005; MFA, 2008).

     

    How did you get your start as a writer?

    For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved reading, and I’ve tried emulating what I read in notebooks of my own. I started writing poetry more seriously in college, and the year I graduated from college, after taking John Gardner’s famous advice about reading all of Faulkner and then all of Hemingway to clean the Faulkner out of your system, I sat down and wrote what I’d consider my first real short stories.

     

    List some of your influences.

    Huckleberry Finn is probably the novel I’ve returned to most over the years, and Raymond Carver was the first literary short story writer I fell in love with (thanks to Altman’s Short Cuts, I discovered him on my own, before being introduced to his work in writing workshops). Probably my favorite genre to read is the crime genre: Gillian Flynn, Laura Lippman, George Pelecanos. Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s Martin Beck series consists of nearly perfect police procedurals. Roberto Bolaño. John Edgar Wideman. Junot Diaz. Graham Greene. Jean Rhys. I love Frank Stanford’s poetry, too.

     

    What is the hardest part of writing for you?

    Getting started. Finishing. Making a plan and sticking to it. Being willing to adjust when my plans go awry. Committing to a genre, a shape.

     

    Word association: Literature.

    Seriousness. Deadly, killing seriousness.

     

    What’s the last book you read and what did you think of it?

    I just finished Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects. I thought it was terrific. I finished the book in the middle of the night, and I was terrified to walk around the house. I love how she couches these urgent concerns about feminism and gender in what’s generally considered a popular—if not a disposable—form. I also think her prose is fantastic—funny, self-aware, caustic, electrifying.

     

    Where do you see the world of writing and publishing heading?

    I would say we’re heading for a world with fewer gatekeepers, a more democratic literary world, but I don’t always think that’s true (nor do I think a world without gatekeepers would necessarily be more democratic, or better). People love to talk about the demise of literature, just like they talked about the demise of libraries a few years ago, but more people are writing than ever (and libraries are thriving). Certainly things seem to be changing. More and more, I think the world is what you make of it. There are lots of opportunities out there—not always paying opportunities, but opportunities—and you never know where things will lead.

     

    Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?

    At the risk of stating the obvious, write. Like Maupassant said, “Put black on white.” I don’t think we really figure anything out unless we’re engaged in the process, since for many of us, the process of writing is actually the process of deciphering the process itself, of learning how we write.

     

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