03 October 2006

Author Answers with Mitch Albom

This week's Wednesday-with-an-author is the author of "Tuesdays with Morrie," Mitch Albom.

Albom is a columnist for the Detroit Free Press as well the author of the non-fiction "Tuesdays with Morrie" and the novel, "Five People you Meet in Heaven." His latest novel "For One More Day" was recently released.

Oshkosh readers take note: Albom will be here in town on Tuesday, Oct 11 for a reading and signing at 11:30 a.m. at the Park Plaza Hotel. Tickets are required for the event. Tickets are $25 and include a copy of the new book which Albom will sign at the event. Tickets are still available by either calling or visiting Apple Blossom Books, 513 N. Main St, 230-3395.

For more on Albom, you can visit his website.

WN: How did you come up with the idea for “For One More Day?”
ALBOM: Most of it was born from readers of the last book. A lot of them came up to me and said to me, “I love that book.” What I wouldn’t give for one more day with such-and-such. A lot of time I noticed it was with a parent. A lot of time we have all this baggage with our parents.
I had a good relationship with my mother… there’s going to be a time when she’s not around. What would that really be like if you had that day, how would you spend it what would you talk about.

WN: What’s different about your writing process for writing your columns and writing a novel?
ALBOM: For one thing you don’t have to make it fit in the space.
To be honest, I look at it all the same. I really only have one ability or skill… that’s being a storyteller. I’m really lousy at everything else. I come from a family of loud storytelling relatives. There’d be 50 of us around the table at Thanksgiving and if you couldn’t hold the floor, you had to give it up.
I learned how to keep things moving and telling a story.
I always try to approach it the same way. I didn’t make it like a text book. I try to concentrate on what’s the same about them. You want to keep an audience’s attention and make them think without realizing it. The nice thing about writing a novel is if you want to give somebody a brother you can.

WN: Have you ever been to Oshkosh before?

ALBOM: I have been to Oshkosh before—a friend of mine and I drove across country. Came to Oshkosh WI and I still have in my drawer a t-shirt that says 'where in the heck is Oshkosh WI?' It’s a tan t-shirt… I thought it was a cool name. We had a piece of pie in some diner. This is like the best pie we’ve ever had. We were so proud we were in Oshkosh WI. I thought that was like really America. The pie was good.

WN: You’re on quite the tour for this new book… what’s the best and worst parts of being on tour?
ALBOM: There’s nothing bad about it except sleep. I’ll never be one of those authors that complains about book tour. It’s an honor when people ask you to come someplace. People want you to come in places you don’t live. It’s one thing to talk in Detroit… but some place like Oshkosh or Japan… that’s a great honor. I get a lot of good ideas from my readers. Sitting in the basement writing by yourself is a very lonely profession. To come out and see how your writing affects them… these are the kinds of lines that move people. I think it’s great. The only part is you don’t sleep a lot and do a lot of sleeping in sitting positions in the car or on a plane.

WN: "Five People You Meet in Heaven" has been used for One Book/One City programs and now Starbucks is encouraging the same sort of thing for “For One More Day” … do you think it’s important for communities to engage with books (yours or anybody else’s) in this way and why?
ALBOM: Any book. Mine or anybody else’s. I think anybody who writes worries that the next generation won’t be reading, they’ll be watching everything. The art of reading or sitting with a book is going to die. Anything, One Book/One City… Starbucks… they chose my book… whether it’s my book or any other [that's] better that than video-gaming or text-messaging. I’d rather see 10 people with a book than tapping on their text messages. All those kinds of things are critical.

WN: What’s the best/favorite book you’ve ever read? Why?
ALBOM: I’ve read so many great books as an adult that they blur together.
[As a kid] I read a book called the “”Royal Road to Romance” written by Richard Halliburton who took off around the world and wrote about his adventures.
As a kid who’d never really been anywhere, I found that book and just cherished it. I think it was an important book for me is because it made me think about a world larger than my own an dit made me dream. It took me places I would never go. That’s the core of all good reading and all good stories.
While I’m sure there are better written ones… that one stands out because it was my first hook into the joy of reading.

WN: Best piece of advice you were given as a writer? Why helpful?
ALBOM: When I was just starting out as a journalist [I was assigned] a story on a photographer… went to his studio and I asked him the same question. What was the best advice? He said, when I was young, I thought I was a hotshot photographer and [I took all these pictures and] sent them off to the biggest photographer in the world. The guy sent him back a note that said You've mastered the basics of photography now surround yourself with the best music, art, dance, theatre and books and all the rest will take care of itself. I learned that's one of the ways you become a good writer is to appreciate the other arts. Read other great books… let it soak you in it. Somehow, you manage to pick up things.
It’s true – if you surround yourself with that, you get better.

WN:What’s it like to play with the “Rock Bottom Remainders?” (An aside from WN: ... the Rock Bottom Remainders is a music group featuring Stephen King, Amy Tan, Scott Turow, Dave Barry and other writers).
ALBOM: [I've been their] Piano player, singer. We’re all good friends at this point. We’re not very good musicians but we’re punctual. How many rock bands can you say that about.
As long as we’re entertaining, I think we distract people from the fact [that we're not very good].
If you know more than three chords, you can’t get in the band. If you exceed the maximum, you can be in the audience and can’t be in the band. Raised over $1 million for literacy.
It’s a good cause. For one week a year we get to feel like rock stars.

WN: What's next for your writing? Have you started on your next book?

ALBOM: I think you start the next book right after you finish the last one. Start thinking… haven’t started writing. Maybe somebody in Oshkosh will give me an idea I hadn’t thought of. I have one non-fiction book about faith that’s on my horizon. Other that, I’ll return to another novel as soon as I get back to my basement.

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