How did you become a writer?
Like most writers, I read a lot growing up as a means to make sense of the world. The old truth that the best way to develop as a writer is to read, read, and read some more endures for good reason. But I was a skinny Irish kid from Reno, Nevada, and had no idea how someone "became" a writer. Some years later, as an Army lieutenant in Iraq, I started a blog that inadvertently jumpstarted my writing career. At the time though, I was just writing to keep in touch with family and friends.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).
The best question and the hardest! Because someone vital is always left off. Let's see ... I grew up out west, so Joan Didion and Katherine Anne Porter and Robert Laxalt were literary fixtures in our house. Like a lot of young men of a certain type, I read too much Hemingway. I came to Marquez late but am glad I did. As for “war” stories: Herr’s Dispatches, Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant,” O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato … oh, and Tolstoy. Can’t leave out that guy.
A number of wonderful writing instructors left great impressions on my work, to include John McNally, Lauren Grodstein, Richard Ford, Benjamin Taylor and Victor LaValle.
When and where do you write?
My usual schedule is write in my apartment for three to four hours in the morning. Then I'll take my dog to the park and grab lunch. In the afternoon I'll edit and revise at the local coffee shop for a few hours.
What are you working on now?
A second novel, centered on post-empire America. It still needs a lot of work, but I’m excited for its potential.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
Of course! Any writer who says otherwise is lying through their teeth. But I've gotten to the point where I realize that the only way past writer's block is through it — writing through it, to be more exact.
What’s your advice to new writers?
Talent's great. Tenacity is better. Don't be afraid of failure, it's part of the process. And "Embrace the Suck," as we liked to say in the Army.
Matt Gallagher is a former U.S. Army captain and Iraq war veteran. His debut novel Youngblood was just published by Atria/Simon & Schuster.