Small Talk: Daniel Woodrell, author of The Maid’s Version

How do I relax? I just about never do

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Born in Missouri in 1953, Daniel Woodrell studied at the University of Kansas and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He has published eight novels and one collection of short stories. His novel Winter’s Bone was made into an Oscar-nominated film of the same name in 2010. Woodrell is married and lives in the Ozarks.

Who is your perfect reader?

Someone who will read each sentence – I won’t corn the goose, but the sentences that are there need to be read.

What is the last thing you read that made you laugh out loud?

Possibly AJ Liebling’s The Honest Rainmaker.

What books are currently on your bedside table?

Turgenev’s Sketches from a Hunter’s Album, which I’ve gone through a half dozen times in the past 30 years; Hemingway’s Boat, by Paul Hendrickson, which is a terrific and fresh approach to the man; two story collections, one by Sarah Hall, the other by Claire Keegan; and a stack of Galway Kinnell poetry.

What book changed your life?

In Our Time, by Hemingway, which showed me that how you tell a story is as important as the story.

When did you know you were going to be a writer?

I announced my intentions at age eight, but was sidetracked by life until I was about 22. That’s when I encountered Hemingway and DH Lawrence and Katherine Anne Porter (does she get the respect she is due?) and got down to it.

What is your daily writing routine?

I rise near dawn, make a strong cup of coffee, wander to my desk and come fully awake by reading something written the day before.

How do you relax?

I just about never do. It’s genetic – many Woodrells can’t turn it off at the end of the day.

What would you go back and change?

I can’t say that dropping out of school at 16 to join the marines was my best idea. On the other hand, maybe it was. Who knows?

What would you change about yourself?

I’d learn to relax, and by relax I don’t mean quaff a bucket of bourbon and collapse into a chair.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

Where the Jacks Fork and the Current River merge [in the Ozarks]. Also, predictable and corny I know, but I do get sincerely jazzed by Paris.

What does it mean to be a writer?

As long as you keep changing, it’s a wonder and a privilege. If you don’t allow yourself to change from book to book – take chances – it turns into a dullish job with no health benefits or pension plan and only intermittent paychecks.

Daniel Woodrell’s latest novel is ‘The Maid’s Version’ (Sceptre)

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