Listen to this article
Willy Vlautin was born in Reno, Nevada, in 1967. He is lead singer and songwriter of Portland-based band Richmond Fontaine and has released nine studio albums. Vlautin is the author of three previous novels: The Motel Life, Northline and Lean on Pete. He lives in Scappoose, Oregon.
Who is your perfect reader?
An obsessive reader who has a few dents and admits they have the dents.
What is the last thing you read that made you laugh out loud?
I just re-read Jim Thompson’s Savage Night and it’s so damn crazy I found myself laughing in disbelief that he was actually saying the things he was saying.
Which books are on your bedside table?
Edward Bunker’s Education of a Felon and Ann Patchett’s The Patron Saint of Liars.
Which book changed your life?
Raymond Carver’s Where I’m Calling From.
What music helps you write?
I can’t write to music. When I listen to music, I can’t help but daydream and I’m the worst daydreamer of all time, so I’d never get anything done.
What do you snack on while you write?
I’m always trying not to, but I rent a room near a doughnut shop. I usually hold out until the afternoon and then I crack and head down there like a junkie.
Which literary character most resembles you?
Mack from Steinbeck’s Cannery Row.
Who are your literary influences?
William Kennedy, John Steinbeck, Flannery O’Connor, Larry Brown.
Who would you most like to sit next to at a dinner party?
Louis Armstrong and then maybe, on the other side of me, Jack Teagarden.
What are you scared of?
It’s a long list.
What keeps you awake at night?
That’s another long list.
What is the best piece of advice a parent gave you?
Watch out because you’re only a few bad moves from ending up on the street.
What book do you wish you’d written?
Fat City by Leonard Gardner.
What are you most proud of having written?
I wrote my first good song at 27. I’d been writing songs obsessively since I was 13. I’d written maybe 300 bad songs and then finally I wrote one I liked called “White Line Fever”. I was very proud of it, and then I played it in a bar and a guy comes up and says, “That sure doesn’t sound like Merle Haggard’s ‘White Line Fever’.”
Where is your favourite place in the world?
Northern Nevada, but then maybe Galway, Ireland.
What novel would you give a child to introduce them to literature?
The Outsiders by SE Hinton.
Willy Vlautin’s latest novel ‘The Free’ is published by Faber in the UK and Harper Perennial in the US.
Be alerted on Books