David Madden

How did you become a writer?

Unclear what “how” means, but about when? From age 3, I told stories, orally. I started writing stories based on movies when I was in the 5th grade; also poetry, pretty soon by the 7th grade radio dramas, biography of Chopin. Foot high stack of writings before I ever read a book. First one was GOD’S LITTLE ACRE by Erskine Caldwell. 

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

No teachers until 11th grade when a university professor commented on a stack of my stories, teaching me more in one session than I was to learn later. Writers: Erskine Caldwell, Thomas Wolfe, James Joyce, Hemingway. 

When and where do you write? 

Anytime, anywhere. 

What are you working on now? 

At age 85, having published 60 books, I am finishing My Creative Life in the Army, Autobiography of My Mother [her pov], An Activist In the Ivory Tower [essays], Revising Nonfiction [I created the term “creative nonfiction”], novels: The Killing Dream, The Wreckage of Dreams, etc.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? 

See #4. Obviously not. Mastery of the craft of fiction enables me always to be able to write and/or revise on any given day. (See my legendary book Revising Fiction)

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Imagine the most effective words = style. In the beginning was the word.

What’s your advice to new writers?

Read as a writer, write as an artist, eschew subjectivity.

Born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1933, David Madden graduated from U-Tenn., served in the Army, earned an M.A. at San Francisco State, and attended Yale Drama School on a John Golden Fellowship. Writer-in-residence at LSU from 1968 to 1992, Director of the Creative Writing Program 1992-1994, Founding Director of the United States Civil War Center 1992-1999, he is now LSU Robert Penn Warren Professor of Creative Writing., Emeritus, living in Black Mountain, NC.

In l961, Random House published his first novel, The Beautiful Greed, based on his Merchant seaman experiences. For Warner Brothers, he adapted his second novel, Cassandra Singing, to the screen (not yet produced). The Shadow Knows, a book of stories, won a National Council on the Arts Award, judged by Hortense Calisher and Walker Percy. His second collection, The New Orleans of Possibilities, appeared in 1982. His stories have been reprinted in numerous college textbooks and twice in Best American Short Stories. A Rockefeller Grant, recommended by Robert Penn Warren and Saul Bellow, enabled him to work in Venice and Yugoslavia on his third novel, Bijou, a 1974 Book of the Month Club Alternate Selection. His best-known novel, The Suicide's Wife, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and made into a CBS movie. Pleasure-Dome, On the Big Wind, Sharpshooter: A Novel of the Civil War, Abducted by Circumstance, and London Bridge in Plague and Fire are his most recent novels. His third book of stories, The Last Bizarre Tale, appeared in August of 2014. 

His poems and short stories have appeared in a wide variety of publications, from Redbook and Playboy to The Southern Review and Botteghe Oscure. His plays have won many state and national contests. The Tangled Web of the Civil War and Reconstruction {essays] appeared in 2015. 

He has given lectures at many conferences and dramatic readings from his fiction at over 200 colleges and universities. David Madden: A Writer for All Genres consists of original essays by scholars and creative writers on Madden’s writings.