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Mark Childress

Mark Childress was born in 1957 in Monroeville, Alabama and grew up in the Midwest and the South. After graduation from the University of Alabama in 1978, he was a reporter for The Birmingham News, Features Editor of Southern Living magazine, and Regional Editor of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. Childress is the author of four novels, A World Made of Fire (Knopf, 1984), V For Victor (Knopf, 1988) Tender (Harmony, 1990), and Crazy in Alabama (Putnam, 1993). His articles and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Times of London, San Francisco Chronicle, Saturday Review, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Travel and Leisure, and other national and international publications.

Crazy in Alabama, a featured alternate selection of the Literary Guild, has been published in the U.S., Great Britain, Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Russia, Holland, and Denmark, appeared on many bestseller lists and Ten Best of 1993 lists. Crazy was named The Spectator's "Book of the Year" for 1993 and a New York Times "Notable Book of the Year," and was a bestseller in Germany for 10 months. Among the author's awards for fiction writing are the Thomas Wolfe Award of the University of Alabama, the University of Alabama's Distinguished Alumni Award, and the Alabama Library Association's Writer of the Year for 1994. Mark lives in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, where he is writing his fifth novel and adapting Crazy in Alabama for New Regency Pictures.



"The author of wacky Southern bildungsromans such as Tender and Crazy in Alabama, Mark Childress branches out into new imaginative territory with Gone for Good, a novel with an all-star cast and a sprawling... plot." Amazon.com Review



Pageonelit.com: You are from the South but you don't live in the South anymore.What does the South mean to you from a writer/literary perspective and why?

Mark Childress: The South is a place where, at least through the time of my childhood, the front porch was a primary location for the exchange of stories. Down South, we don't say "I had a flat tire on the way home today," you say, "let me tell you what happened to me today!" In other words, we don't necessarily tell more stories than anyone else, but we usually put things in a narrative form. It's just a habit, I think, handed down from generation to generation. Also -- the South is the only part of the country that ever lost a war, ever had a war fought on our own soil. And that continues to mark us, down to this day. Perhaps it provokes a need to explain ourselves.


Pageonelit.com: How did you land in Costa Rica? Do you think you will return to the US one day or are you gone for good?

Mark Childress: Like most of the expats who've landed here, I never meant for it to happen. But the first time I stepped off the plane in San Jose, I felt like I was at home. It's a perfect place for a writer -- inexpensive to live, beautiful, great climate, and lots of interesting people floating around. But of course I'm an American -- a gringo -- and I would never say I'll never go home again.



Pageonelit.com: When asked what book you wished you could have written, you said, `To Kill a Mockingbird.' Could you tell us what it is you loved about this book and why you chose this one book out of so many classics?

Mark Childress: First off, it's the first "adult" book I ever read as a child, and it was set in the town where I was born, so I felt a very powerful connection to it from the time I sat down with it. "TKAM" seems to speak to the generations. It has that feeling of a classic that will be read and revered a century for now -- how many other "modern" novels can make the same claim? And I certainly wouldn't mind writing a book that inspires generation after generation of rumors, the way Miss Lee's book has.


Pageonelit.com: Tell us about your novel GONE FOR GOOD and the origin of the story. Was this an easy or difficult book to write and why?

Mark Childress: Gone for Good is the story of a folk-rock star at a certain time and place -- the USA, the 70s -- who has gotten lost inside his success. One night, quite by accident, he strays way off course and finds himself in a mysterious, timeless place where all the rules of celebrity and civilization have turned upside down. The place where "Superman" Willis lands is not unlike Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, where I live -- so I suppose you could say the place was the inspiration. All novels, to me, are incredibly difficult to write, which is I guess why they're worth writing. I don't find that one is easier, one harder, etc.


Pageonelit.com: When developing characters for your novels, do you make them up from scratch or from the folks you know or have known? Are any of the characters in GONE FOR GOOD modeled after anyone you know or have known?

Mark Childress: I don't think you ever make up a character completely from scratch. As a human being, all you have to work with is the world around you, the people you know. Many times a character will be composed of bits and pieces of three or four personalities I've known, all mixed together. I would say that a few of the "natives" in "Gone for Good" are pretty directly inspired by people here in Manuel Antonio, but the names have been changed to protect .... myself.



Pageonelit.com: If you were not a writer, what would you be doing for a living?"

Mark Childress: "I can't imagine. Teaching kindergarten, maybe? Producing little-known independent films? Luckily I've never had to seriously consider that question. Writing is my first love, always."



Pageonelit.com: What advice can you offer future novelists who want to consistently write 400 page novels?"

Mark Childress: First off, read everything you can get your hands on. Then write as many words a day as you can stand to write. Once you're into a novel, try not to think of the hugeness of the task you've set yourself. It helps me to think, "okay, today I'm going to write this scene -- just one scene, that's all, and that's not so hard." Sometimes it's better to forget the forest and concentrate on the trees.




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