Behind the Books – Andrew Maraniss Edition

One never knows where and when inspiration strikes. Something akin to that is the journey of author, Andrew Maraniss and his book, “Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South”.

 “The truth is that in some ways, this was much more than just an eight-year project. I first wrote about Perry Wallace when I was a sophomore in college in 1989, for a Black History class. So, I have been interviewing Perry Wallace and writing about him for more than half of my life. He’s a brilliant man, so the opportunity to learn about race relations from him is something that makes me feel extremely fortunate. I had never written a book before when I embarked on this one, so the idea of writing something this thorough was a little daunting to me at first. But once I got started, I realized that I could do it. If I could write one chapter, I could write two. And three. And so on”.

Andrew Maraniss is a New York Times bestselling author, he studied history at Vanderbilt University as a recipient of the Fred Russell – Grantland Rice sportswriting scholarship, earning the school’s Alexander Award for excellence in journalism and graduating in 1992. He then worked for five years in Vanderbilt’s athletic department as the associate director of media relations, dealing primarily with the men’s basketball team. In 1998, he served as the media relations manager for the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays during the team’s inaugural season, and then returned to Nashville to join MP&F Public Relations.

Research writing is one of the most difficult and thorough ways of writing; having to compile endless amounts of information and weaving a narrative that the world should read is challenging and when asked about it, Andrew Maraniss explains how much reading and writing get interlinked in this genre of writing, saying, “For me, writing and reading are inextricably linked. The most important part of my writing is my research, and most of the time that research involves reading. I spent four years doing research for my book STRONG INSIDE before I wrote the first word. This research involved interviewing nearly 100 people, but it also meant spending hours and hours reading newspaper articles, books, oral histories, and archival documents. I tried to immerse myself in the 1960s as I was writing the book, so during that period (which lasted another four years) I read books about that time period that had nothing to do with the subject of my book, but just helped me understand that era”.

He focuses on the editing process and says, “The editing process was also very important. I remember printing out chapters and reading and re-reading them, and almost literally sleeping on them, just letting the words and scenes take over my whole body so that I could almost FEEL what needed to be tweaked or improved”.

Andrew Maraniss talks of how a certain level of obsession with the subject is valid when writing about it, I think that translates to other parts of his life – his writing space in his own words, “I wrote STRONG INSIDE in the guest bedroom of our home in Brentwood, Tennessee, which we’ve converted into my home office. I have a wooden desk and a folding chair that was once used by the Vanderbilt University basketball team. The room is full of sports memorabilia; like a mini sports museum. My desk is usually a big mess while I’m writing! I keep my interviews, research and outlines in three-ring binders, and I pile them up on my desk while I’m writing. I basically surround myself in a cave of research”.

“The best advice I received on avoiding writer’s block came from my father. He said that he always ends his writing for the day at a place in the story where he knows exactly what comes next. So he starts the next day knowing how he’s going to get started”, says the author sharing his views on writers block.

“Every reader exists to ensure for a certain book a modest immortality. Reading is, in this sense, a ritual of rebirth”, writer Alberto Manguel brings back the motivations of reading and writing with these words.

In the same belief we posed the curious question of Andrew Maraniss’s favourite writers and books and he listed them patiently, “Well, my favorite author is David Maraniss, my father! He is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and has written many best-selling books. I love his narrative non-fiction style, the way he uses small details to illustrate larger points and the way he makes the reader feel like they are inhabiting the world of the characters they’re reading about. He doesn’t insert himself into the story, but lets his research speak for itself. A new favorite author of mine is Ruta Sepetys, who specializes in historical fiction for Young Adult readers. Ruta lives here in Nashville and has been an incredible mentor.

I’ve never been too interested in fiction, but I just finished reading Stephen King’s alternate history 11/22/1963 and loved it. Some of my other favorite authors include Bill Bryson, Erik Larson, Eric Swanson, and David Halberstam”.

Discussing the genre of sports writing, the author says, “I think sports writing is a very underestimated genre. Some of the best human-interest stories have taken place in the world of sports and some of the best narrative non-fiction writers have written about sports. That said, the area where I see the most room for improvement is sports-related writing for young readers. Many of the books available for kids read like encyclopedia entries or are too focused on on-the-field accomplishments. The only way to overcome that is to write more interesting books for kids. I plan to do so!”

We played our version of the author rapid fire and these were his responses:
Pick one:

I’ve never read an e-book and have no desire to do so. I like real books!

I rarely have the time to sit down and watch a 2-hour movie! So I will say TV.  Some of my favorite shows recently include Breaking Bad and The Americans. I’m   also a fan of comedies such as Curb Your Enthusiasm and Arrested Development.

With two young kids, any chance to spend time with them is treasured.

Writing on paper/computer
I do my best thinking when my fingers are on a keyboard.

Writer’s block – Reality/Myth
It’s a reality, but it shouldn’t be crippling. Just get started and go back and   improve things later; keep moving.

When asked of his opinion over a platform such as Woodpie and its effort to reach readers and create new energy for reading – “I think it is fantastic! First of all, anything that gets people reading, talking about books, and sharing their favorite books with their friends is a good thing. When one considers the sad facts about how few books people actually read these days, something like Woodpie takes on even added importance. And I think Woodpie brings together the best of modern technology with the old-fashioned, tried-and-true method of “word of mouth” being the best way to learn about new books. I’m excited to watch Woodpie grow!”

-Article written by Kinnari









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