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Hey Tony!

The first victim in our series of interviews with Creative Writing Program Alumni, Tony D’Souza (’00) answers our questions about becoming a writer, the writing process, and the realities of life as a writer.


Why did you want to become a writer? Briefly describe how you became one.

Tony D'SouzaI’m mid-career as a writer and can hardly remember any longer. I suppose I will just be honest. I enjoyed reading great books and romanticized the lives of the people who wrote them. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, etc. I wanted to be that cool and live a life out of the ordinary. Pretty quickly once I started writing, it became less about being and living like them and more about the love of words, the intoxication of being lost in a scene, and overcoming the personal challenge that writing is for me.


Who influenced you and helped your development and how?

I had a mentor as an undergrad, a writer-in-residence at my small liberal arts college. She had been published a few times in the New Yorker; we ended up doing three independent studies in fiction together, reading really great short stories–Welty, Carver, Dubus, Gaitskill– smoking cigarettes together, and she’d read my work. I worked hard and listened to her. I was very much in lust with her. It made me want to work toward a ‘reward’. It gave me the foundations of what my career has been: unusual drive and discipline all aimed at getting a reward.



What advice do you offer aspiring writers?

You cannot have any real sense of what hard work is yet. Whatever discipline you might have, multiply it by what you cannot even imagine and get to work. The two most important things a writer must do are read and write.


Choose one, two, or three of your books and discuss how the idea originated for the finished book.

I always start with a blank page and my life experiences. I sit down and put down a line trying to get into a memory. If it goes well, the jumping off point quickly falls away into the unexpected. But it has always been counting on my life experiences to give me a place to start. Blank page, no plan. It’s turned into a body of work.


Discuss genre, where does your writing fit, or not?

My work is literary realism. I have a few stories that experiment and my last novel might be called “commercial-ish.” But I am literary to a T. That doesn’t mean dry or that it doesn’t sell any copies. It means that it doesn’t have any of the cheap, two-dimensional affects of genre. I’ll never understand why crappy genre books sell so many more copies than literary. Never. Just don’t get it at all.


If your book was film optioned, which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

My last book was optioned by Warner Bros. I do not care at all who plays any of the characters or if they mangle the script or whatever. I would just like to see it made so that I get paid and will have more time to write other books. Writing that book was hard enough. It’s my past and I hope I have a future.


How long did it take to complete your first draft of your manuscript?

It takes me six months to write a novel. But it takes me between two and five years of writing out a bunch of crap before the Muse finally decides to stop destroying me and actually gives me a first line that then sets off a frantic six month period of writing a novel. Life between writing novels is miserable hell.


WindowGive a one sentence synopsis of your book?

Drug mule argues with boss and kills him.


Discuss your latest enterprise?

A few deleted drafts of garbage and a lot of cigarette butts, fear and depression.


“Mystery” 10th Question: Do you regret your decision to forego a stable career and become a writer?



All excellent answers, especially that last one! It’s good to know that for many of our graduates, the risk involved in a career as a writer is worth the reward. 

Tony’s most recent book, Mule, is available for purchase here—-for more information about Tony and his other publications, check out his website!

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