Thursday, October 21, 2004

LUCIUS SHEPARD--The Hardest Working Writer in North America?

Somehow Lucius Shepard manages to not only be one of the best American writers but also one of the most prolific. In the last month or two, PS Publishing has released his collection Trujillo, Thunder's Mouth Press has released his novel The Handbook of American Prayer, and Night Shade Books has released his novel Viator. All are of a stunning quality. And any writer would be happy to be defined by any one of them in a single year. That all three are from the same author in the same year boggles the mind. Well, my mind, at any rate.

I recently interviewed Lucius Shepard for Rain Taxi. The full interview will appear in a future RT issue, but for now a couple of snippets from that interview to whet your appetite.


Did you have any teachers outside of writing workshops during your formative years?
My father wanted me to be a writer, He taught me to read when I was three and provided me with a pretty fair education in the classics by the time I was twelve. He had me reading Shakespeare, the Romantics, Hardy, Conrad, Stevenson, et al. I didn’t understand a lot of it at first, but I must have absorbed something. I can still quote long passages of Shakespeare I learned during that time. But I did this at the expense of a happy childhood, and I went through a prolonged anti-intellectual phase; so I’m not sure whether it slowed me down or sped me up. I suppose it helped—things you learn as a child tend to stick with you.

Who are the major influences on you as a writer? What did you learn from each?
I became fascinated by the opening paragraph of Mishima’s Spring Snow, which describes some articles on a table, in particular a photograph. In describing those few articles, Mishima caught the character of an entire milieu. To say that one of my main influences is a single paragraph in translation may seem weird, but it’s true. I wrote paragraph after paragraph attempting mimicry. I always keep a copy of Spring Snow close. I suppose Graham Greene and Conrad were influence as regards my choice of certain materials. Flannery O’Connor taught me a great deal about the uses of ambiguity in relation to writing fantasy. I think my dialogue, when it’s effective, owes a good bit to writers like Robert Stone and James Lee Burke. Like most writers I absorb my influences osmotically, thus I’m unaware of many of them.


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