How did you become a writer?
I had a late start as a writer. I studied English Lit in college and wrote a little here and there, but I didn't have enough confidence in my writing to go at it full tilt. So after I graduated college I--weirdly enough--moved to Los Angeles to become an actor. I lived there for eight years, doing commercials and theatre and bit parts on bad TV shows, and writing occasionally, before traveling to Czechoslovakia as a volunteer English teacher in the early 90s. It was there that I finally got serious about my writing. I worked diligently at writing stories during the next six years living abroad, and then returned to the US to enter the MFA program at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington. While I was at UNCW I began to publish a few short stories, but it took me four (four!) novels before I wrote one that was deemed salable. That was LETTER TO MY DAUGHTER, which came out in 2010 with Ballantine.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).
I credit my great teachers at UNCW for showing me how to be extra-meticulous in editing and crafting sentences: Wendy Brenner, Rebecca Lee, Clyde Edgerton, Sarah Messer. As for other authors, early and powerful influences were the usual lot for guys of my generation: Hemingway, Steinbeck, Fitzgerald, Salinger, Joyce. And then Tolstoy, Flannery O'Connor, Maugham, Greene. More recently, Orhan Pamuk . . . I wish I had a more original or exciting list.
When and where do you write?
I have the luxury of writing full time now, but it's a very demanding sort of luxury. I try to write six days a week. I wake up early, put on coffee, and go to work. I write until lunch, taking frequent breaks, and then maybe put in another hour or two in the afternoon. Repeat every day. A very dull life, actually.
What are you working on now?
I just turned in the final edits for my new novel, THE NIGHT OF THE COMET, coming out in August 2013. Now I'm getting back to work on another novel I started last year. Like COMET, it's set in Louisiana in the ’70s. It concerns four kids during the summer between their graduation from high school and the start of college, about how their lives intersect and change.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
No, not really. If anything, I suffer from having too much I want to write about. It's often a struggle to write, of course, but I don't consider that writer's block. I call it laziness.
What’s your advice to new writers?
That's easy: Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Along the way, get what help you can.
George Bishop, Jr., earned an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where he won the department’s Award of Excellence for a collection of stories. He has lived and taught in Slovakia, Turkey, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, India, and Japan. He now makes his home in New Orleans.