Life Stories #22: Michael Hainey

Life Stories: Michael Hainey
photo: Mark Seliger

This episode of Life Stories, the podcast where I interview memoir writers about their lives and the art of writing memoir, began as an assignment for Maximum Shelf, a sponsor-supported segment of the Shelf Awareness newsletter. Once I started reading After Visiting Friends, in which Michael Hainey reveals how his life was affected by the unanswered questions surrounding his father’s death and how he determined to uncover the truth, I knew that I wanted to share this book with Beatrice readers as well. So I’m grateful my editors at Shelf have allowed me to present this version of my conversation with Michael, which took place in a conference room down the hall from his offices at GQ (where he’s the deputy editor).

There’s a lot of great stuff in this conversation—about how the truth doesn’t always bring you closure, about the perseverance to see a project through over nearly a decade, and about how the fundamentals of reporting are the fundamentals of good storytelling, among other things—but I’ve kept the central mystery intact, because, really, you need to discover it for yourself, through Michael Hainey’s voice. And I hope you will!

Listen to Life Stories #22: Michael Hainey (MP3 file); or download the file by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click).

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26 February 2013 | life stories |

Life Stories #21: Jacob Tomsky

Life Stories: Jacob Tomsky
photo: James Slater

This episode of Life Stories, the podcast where I interview memoir writers about their lives and the art of writing memoir, showcases Jacob Tomsky, who’s written about his experiences in the hotel service industry in Heads in Beds. We had a lot to talk about, from his decision to change his own name along with everybody else’s to why you should always tip the bellman—and a little something for the front desk wouldn’t hurt, either.

We also discussed working with his editor at Doubleday, Gerry Howard. I mentioned that it seemed like a great fit because Howard really “gets” working class literary voices, and Tomsky added that he’d been excited to work with Chuck Palahniuk’s editor because he had some wild stories to tell about the hotel trade. But that wasn’t the only reason; while another publisher who was interested in the book was very welcoming, Tomsky was actually a little intimidated by his meetings with Howard and other Doubleday brass—and he thought that fear was a sign he’d be pushed into coming up with something even better than what he’d already come up with. And the results, I’ll tell you, are pretty impressive.

Listen to Life Stories #21: Jacob Tomsky (MP3 file); or download the file by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click).

25 February 2013 | life stories |

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