Q&A with Thomas Mallon
What is a day in the life of a writer like for you?
I spend about half my day reading-either for research; of for a nonfiction piece that I'm writing (I still do a lot of work for The New Yorker and The New York Times Book Review); or for pleasure. The other half I spend mostly writing.
What are you reading right now?
Right now I'm reading a lot of books about Wendell Willkie-for a New Yorker piece-as well as Arnold Bennett's novel The Old Wives' Tale. We know Bennett mostly as a [fall guy] for Virginia Woolf; he wrote the kind of Edwardian novel she wanted to overthrow, and few people read him any more. But the book is completely absorbing. I'm reading it most evenings, in the garden on the rooftop of the apartment building where I live in Washington, D. C. I've got it on my Kindle, so I can keep at it after the sun has set and the rooftop is dark.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give a writer trying to get published for the first time?
The best advice I can give to a writer trying to get published is to start small (some online site perhaps) and then trade up-alerting editors of the bigger journals to your previous credits in smaller ones.
Do you prefer paper or pen?
I still write all my first drafts in longhand; after that everything goes into the computer.
It's been a while since you published Finale: A Novel of the Reagan Years. Are you working on anything right now?
I have a novel coming out in February. It's called Landfall and is set during the George W. Bush administration at the time of Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq insurgency. This book completes a fictional political trilogy that I've been at for ten years. The first volume is Watergate and the second is Finale (about the Reagan years).