Interview with Bill Hare

When did you start reading?
I had read only three novels by high school graduation. And that was despite my mother pressing countless books into my hands from the time I could read. When I went off to college, she had nearly given up hope of my ever developing some form of intellectual and artistic curiosity. I enjoyed those novels well enough, especially Mister Roberts, but not enough to finish another until I was at Northwestern.
I had been a jock—all sports, but I excelled at football (started on the #1 1950 team in Michigan) and track—as well as a politician (class president).
But then I was hurt and couldn’t continue football and, for a while, this broke my heart. I had run track because my coaches insisted, not because I loved throwing up after sprinting a quarter mile. So when football, which I loved, was over, I gave up track as well. Therefore, when I went to NU as a pure student, I became an “intellectual.” I started smoking and drinking coffee and hanging out at The Great Expectations Book Shop because it seemed cool and a guy in my fraternity had told me that The Great Gatsby was the best novel ever written. I read it and readily agreed, talking it up to others (although, as I recall, it was only the 4th non-textbook I’d ever actually finished in my life). Anyway, we are now half way there.
Searching for a gut course in my sophomore year, someone else in the fraternity said, “You’re a bullshitter, Hare, so how about Sophomore Comp?” It didn’t seem like a very promising idea, however, since I had never been able to complete an English “theme” without the utmost agony, counting every single word until I had scratched out the quota (300 as I recall). But I checked around and discovered that, sure enough, there was no textbook in Sophomore Composition and all you did was turn in a few pages of bullshit every two weeks in order to pass. So the first thing I wrote about was an experience during a high school summer near Yellowstone. I had nearly been killed by a mother bear for stupidly playing with her cubs when she was out of sight. Our instructor told me to see him after class and I was certain the jig was up; he was going to throw me out because of that story I’d recently turned in (it couldn’t be any good, I reasoned, because I had actually enjoyed writing it). In his little office, he showed me my paper—the first page predictably covered with so much red ink that I failed to note the letter grade at the top. He said, “Mr. Hare, let’s work together for the rest of the quarter and I’m sure we can make some headway against your spelling and grammatical troubles.” His hand swept across my red-ink-corrected catastrophe. “Because,” he continued with a smile, “I can’t tell you how grateful I was to read your piece. I seldom read anything half as interesting from my students.”
I looked up and saw that the grade was A-minus.
You can Google information about a play and a narrative nonfiction book that were traditionally published. You might also see that I once made a movie. Recently, because I have received no takers on a literary love story novella called The JFK Anniversary Trip (closest was The Atlantic, whose fiction editor wrote on his slip “Depth, charm, history and impossible length. Sorry, CMC”), I sent it to internet bookstores through Smashwords and we are now having this one-way conversation (*below).
A WWII novel, The Soldier, about a German general plotting against Hitler at Stalingrad, will be my big book—but how, you ask, can an unknown writer have a “big book”? Easy. Take a decade to finish a complex and demanding play, then another decade turning the play into an even more complex and demanding novel, and, if you’re the author, damn right it’s a big book (although not even big in size at around 300 pages as of today) . Also see below regarding how time spent translates into quality (it usually doesn’t).
Anyway, I do anticipate this book being traditionally published out of London in late 2015 or the next year. Next will come Robber Baron Bliss, a story about smart hicks in a tempestuous romance amidst a vast railroad conspiracy in Northern California, 1872. I also have the first 100 pages or so of two other novels about growing up in Ann Arbor and the murder of an advertising innocent—but on those only time will tell. JFK, at 70 pages, took me two years while The Soldier you know about but not that I’ve also been working on Bliss since the 70’s (began as a hot screenplay that suffered incredibly—using the word properly—bad luck that actually became quite lucky for me).
Of course there is no correlation between the time it takes to write a book and the quality of the work. Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath in two months (I wish he’d taken three); and allegedly Edward Albee wrote Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff? on a two week cruise (but I never believed it—maybe a heavily annotated outline). My own time problems have been three-fold: I made a living as a writer for over 50 years (advertising, corporate communications and speechwriting) and I often didn’t have enough juice left at night and on weekends. I also drank too much. And, while better men than me had themselves lashed to the mast to resist the sweet seduction of movies and plays, to this day I work on Tony and Oscar candidates.
What’s more, I cannot stand any page that is not perfect to me. (Yes, in my mind I do eventually arrive at perfection; it just takes a long time). Add to that time complication the fact that all my books are (or will be) different in form and content—although a reader may pick up on a similarity in style—and you can understand why it’s tough to categorize my work. And to build a “platform,” a writer needs consistency and at that I’ve been a flop. Hence, I have NO social media presence.
It’s a single-minded, one-way, zigzaggy road I travel, so I only offer my *U.S.P.S. mailing address at 911 St. Joseph at Gaston, #214, Dallas, TX 75246.
Time, you see, is precious at my age, and, with the work so demanding, there just isn’t enough of it—even for the good reading I love (See, Mom!). Right now, for example, when I finish Halberstam’s wondrous The Fifties, I have Franzen, Márquez, du Maurier,** Hardy, Hemingway and Tartt waiting (in no particular order)—masters in whose renewed or new company will be time well spent.
**See, I am not a literary snob. In fact, a very smart and talented person recently cautioned me about “reading too much good stuff because we all need a rec read now and then.” He offered the Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly. “It’s not very nourishing,” he said, “more like eating Krispy Kremes. But, boy, are they fun!” So I got one (City of Bones) and it was fun as well as admirable writing. There is also a copy of Gone Girl around here because I didn’t want to be the only one in America who never read it. (Update: now I wish I hadn’t wasted the time.)
I hope you enjoyed JFK as much as I do myself (not supposed to say that, but I love that story, even after having read it in various forms maybe 50 times). I even get a little wispy-eyed still. Later, I’ll try turning it into a play--already wrote the last (cemetery) scene as a play and it’s working because I can bring the Judge back.
Is that all?
Published 2015-02-14.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.