David Bruce: Authors Anecdotes

• Sometimes, it was hard to get an interview with Canadian novelist Ernest Buckler, author of The Mountain and the Valley. The shy writer once hid in the cornfields of his farm rather than be interviewed. He did find living in a rural area conducive to being a writer, although the country did have its own kind of distractions. He needed silence to write, and he once said that sometimes when he was ready to write “this is precisely the time when somebody will come in, some gal, you know, who’ll talk for hours on end as to whether as to whether her husband prefers turnips in the stew or cauliflower.” Although Mr. Buckler was shy, he was a good interview. He once said, “Writers, by and large, are the dreariest people you can possibly know, because they are just stuffed with words, like dry-bread dressing on a Christmas Eve goose’s ass.” As a famous author, he sometimes received funny letters. Someone from Cape Breton wrote him, “I enjoyed your book very much. It was such clear print.” A woman from Seattle, Washington, sent him her measurements and wrote him that his name — Ernest Redmond Buckler — thrilled her and that she could see him on a white charger rescuing damsels in distress. Mr. Buckler said, “My God, myself on a white charger! I’m scared sh*tless of horses. One kicked me in the head at thirteen.”

• Isaac Asimov wrote hundreds of books. Asked what is his favorite book, he used to reply, “The last one I’ve written.” Of course, he was known for writing science fiction, but he also wrote many books about science for the general public. He once said, “I can read a dozen dull books and make one interesting book out of them.” Other people wondered how he could write so much. (He did it by writing for hours every day.) Mr. Asimov did not get a word processor until June of 1981, preferring to write on typewriters. While interviewing Mr. Asimov in 1982, Frank Kendig joked, “I think most of us thought that you had one [a word processor] all along—that or a team of writers chained in the basement.” Many people have rituals such as sharpening pencils that they perform before they begin to write. Mr. Asimov once said, “The only thing I do before I start writing is to make sure that I’m close enough to the typewriter to reach the keys.” An interviewer once asked Mr. Asimov what he would do if he were told that he had only six months to live. He replied, “Type faster!”

• Margaret Wise Brown, the author of the children’s story “Goodnight Moon,” was an eccentric. When she received her very first royalty check, she bought every flower for sale on a flower cart. She owned land and a house in Maine that she referred to as “The Only House.” Among other features, she had an outdoor room including a mirror nailed to a tree, a table, and a nightstand. She once decorated her room in a hotel in Paris with orange trees and live birds. Many of her friends were also eccentrics. They formed a group they called the Bird Brain Society. One of the rules was that a member could declare any day Christmas and invite the other members of the group to come over and celebrate. She died early, at age 42. Following an operation for appendicitis in France, she seemed to be recovering well. To show her nurse how well she was doing, she kicked her leg as if she were doing the can-can and died instantly of an embolism.

• The late Ray Bradburywas generous when it came to advising and helping other writers. When New York Timesbestselling author Jonathan Maberry was a young teenager, he met and got to know Mr. Bradbury. Mr. Maberry says about Mr. Bradbury, “He gave me a lot of very good advice on craft and the business of publishing, but one of the things that stuck out in my mind was this — he said, ‘Writers should always help other writers — because you can bet every penny in your pocket that no one else will do it.’ Mr. Maberry says that his manifesto now is this: “Writers should always help other writers.” Mr. Maberry says that he “believes that if writers help other writers, then more good works will get published, more people will want to read these works, and all of publishing will thrive. Indie, mainstream, and solo press.”

• Stephen King has been typecast as a horror writer although he does many kinds of writing, such as the stories in Different Seasons, including “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.” In fact, many readers refuse to believe that Mr. King writes anything other than horror. Mr. King illustrates this with an anecdote: “I was down here [one of the Sarasota Keys in Florida] in the supermarket, and this old woman comes around the corner—obviously one of the kind of women who says whatever is on her brain. She said, ‘I know who you are; you are the horror writer. I don’t read anything that you do, but I respect your right to do it. I just like things more genuine, like that Shawshank Redemption.’And I said, ‘I wrote that.’ And she said, ‘No, you didn’t.’ And she walked off and went on her way.”

• Isaac Asimov wrote his autobiography for Doubleday, but after writing 50 pages, he discovered that he had gotten only as far as his first three years of life, meaning that his autobiography would be huge. His friend and fellow science-fiction writer Ben Bova visited him and saw the many pages of typed manuscript that Mr. Asimov was pouring out. Mr. Asimov explained, “In this autobiography, I’m including every stupid thing I can remember having said or done.” Mr. Bova joked, “No wonder it’s so long.”

• In 1939, an alumnus of MIT, class of 1889, wrote a 50,110-word novelty novel titled Gadsby. Why “novelty”? It did not contain the letter E. It did include sentences such as this: “Youth cannot stay for long in a condition of inactivity.”

• “The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it.” — Benjamin Disraeli


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


David Bruce’s Smashwords Bookstore: Retellings of Classic Literature, Anecdote Collections, Discussion Guides for Teachers of Literature, Collections of Good Deed Accounts, etc. Some eBooks are free.









John Ford’s The Broken Heart: A Retelling, by David Bruce





William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure:A Retelling in Prose, by David Bruce




Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist:A Retelling in Prose


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