Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Same Six Questions - Robert Lamb

Welcome back to The Same Six Questions! Today's guest is Robert Lamb! Welcome, Robert!

Hello, Andy! I teach writing and American literature at the University of South Carolina, in Columbia. I'm a native of this state, but I grew up in Augusta, Georgia, and am a graduate of the University of Georgia. I'm a jazz fan, like good movies, and enjoy sports, especially collegiate basketball. I also enjoy reviewing books and I do it for the New York Journal of Books.

The Same Six Questions

1. Have you published a book yet?

Yes, three novels and a book of stories andpoems. The first novel, Striking Out, a coming-of-age novel, was published in 1991 by The Permanent Press and was nominated for the PEN/Hemingway Award. The second, Atlanta Blues, is about the search for a missing college girl by a newspaper reporter and two cops. Published by Harbor House Books, it was a Southern Critics Circle Selection and was named in a year-end round-up as "one of the best novels of 2004 by a Southern writer." The third novel, A Majority of One, was published in September 2011, by Red Letter Press. The fourth book, due out soon, is also from Red Letter Press. It's title is Six of One, Half Dozen of Another (Stories & Poems).

Synopsis of A Majority of One: When preachers in a rural Georgia town move to ban some classic American novels from the high school curriculum--and post the Ten Commandments in every classroom--only one person stands up to them: English teacher Anne Brady, an “outsider” from Atlanta who champions great literature (and the separation of Church and State). Refusing to “go along to get along,” she soon finds herself in a fight to save her job and reputation. For help, she turns to another outsider, lawyer Eugene Shapiro, who as the county’s only Jewish attorney knows all too well what his client is up against. By the time Anne’s struggle spills into court from a heated school-board meeting, the mood of the county points toward a legal lynching – or worse, as some of the more zealous defenders of the faith have drifted beyond the reach of law or reason. This novel is a powerful reminder that not all religious fanatics live in the Middle East. America has its own home-grown variety. (Available at Amazon for the Kindle and smashwords.com for all other ereaders).

2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

At age 10, I saw a movie, "Gentleman's Agreement." Starring Gregory Peck, it was about his work as a magazine writer exposing, in this case, anti-semitism. I was smitten. I grew up to become a newspaperman (The Atlanta Constitution) and then a novelist and short-story writer.

3. What was your first lengthy piece of fiction (say, >1000 words)? What was it about? When did you write it? Do you still have it?

It was my first attempt at a novel. It was about a teacher who gets into trouble because of his/her unorthodox religious views. I began it as a college student, probably in my junior year. I still have the original, written in a notebook, around here somewhere; better still, I finally got that novel written (though changed in material ways). It's the novel titled A Majority of One.

4. When was your first indication, "I can do this (write)"?

I've always been able to write. As far back as grade school, I wrote creatively, and my classmates and teachers encouraged me to do more. But I knew how to write long before I knew how to write a novel. That first attempt at a novel, when I was in college, sputtered out at about 50,000 words – because I didn''t know what I was doing. Novel-writing is a craft. One must learn the craft or trust to blind luck for success. The latter approach, when it works at all, often leads to what's known in writers'circles as the sophomore jinx: the second book bombs because the author didn't know how he did it the first time.

5. If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which would it be?

I've already met some of them. The two cops in Atlanta Blues were based on cops I actually knew and worked with as a reporter. In Striking Out, Johnny Kelly was based on a childhood friend whom I knew well. But Shapiro, in A Majority of One, is a fictitious character I'd like to meet in person.


6. It's a dark and stormy night...you're alone in the house...there's a knock at the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What's on the doorstep?

I can't imagine screaming like a little gir, but I might do it if the people from Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes were there, holding a big, big, check made out to me.

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Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing with us today, Robert! For more of Robert and his writing, be sure to check out his blog, Red Letter Press, and Twitter.

Monday, my guest will be Keith Weaver! See you then!