Exclusive Interview with Author Caleb Pinkerton

On Writing

What made you want to become a writer?

It goes back to grade school, where I was a quiet student. I had a lot of ideas buzzing around my brain but lacked the confidence to share them. I was always afraid I wouldn’t explain myself as clearly as I saw these ideas in my own head. It became a moment of clarity when I realized I didn’t have to be the loudest voice in the room - that I could simply write these ideas and observations down, and that they could, over time, be molded into perfection.  

Do you write alone or in public?

Always alone. The smaller the number of stimuli, the better. I’ve had days where my distractions have distractions.  

What do you love most about the writing process?

It’s usually during brainstorming (or down time), when you have that creative breakthrough where something big about a plot point or character clicks neatly into place. I tend to spend a lot of time brainstorming in-between writing. I have some days when a great idea comes to me while I’m typing, but it isn’t often. It’s usually when I’m in the shower, or lying awake at night, or scratching my head over coffee. An idea just pops in there and I rush to my phone to make sure that I take it down before it evaporates.  

Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day?

Yes, I work in public relations. My job largely consists of helping companies tell better stories about themselves, which certainly helps with my own storytelling.  

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

The brainstorming process energizes me, but proper writing is always exhausting.

Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

You need enough ego to believe that your stories have merit, but beyond that, an ego can be dangerous. There are plenty of writers out there who succeed by writing stories that are of great interest to them, but I find my best work comes during the revision process when I’ve learned from others what works and what doesn’t.  

What is your writing Kryptonite?

I always feel like a fraud when writing action sequences, as my best writing tends to come from stories that are grounded in my own reality. Perhaps this is a sign that I need to put myself into more life-threatening scenarios!  

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Try to write / edit something every day. Even if it’s just in a journal or writing a letter / email to a friend. Writing is very much a skill that improves through repetition. I don’t believe that great writers are born, but forged.    

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

Listening to my dad tell stories to a crowded room. He was a global studies teacher for nearly four decades and had this incredible ability to captivity an audience. I always wanted to be able to speak with his eloquence, but I always felt much more comfortable with a pen in my hand.  

What does literary success look like to you?

Being able to quit my day job and focus solely on creative writing.  

How many hours a day do you spend writing?

Usually 2-3 hours a day.

What period of your life do you find you write about most often?

My childhood. I grew up in a very small town that had an incredible number of odd balls. I’ve always adored eccentric characters, whether real or imaginary.  

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I always struggle to read them. I’ll often wait a few days (or even weeks) before reading a new review, as my emotions feel a bit more in check when I put some distance between receiving and reading.  

What is the most difficult part of your creative process?

I’ve always struggled to come up with brilliant creative ideas on the fly. In my first drafts, I tend to focus too much on the technical aspects of my writing, which closes off avenues of creativity. I’ve tried to write my first drafts in more of a stream of consciousness style, but it never comes easy.  

On Books

What are five books you loved? For one of them, why did you love it?

The Bonfire of the Vanities: Tom Wolfe is just an incredible storyteller with a wonderful eye for detail and character development, and I’m always so impressed by his dialogue (particularly the way he nails how people talk from different walks of life).

• Catch-22
• The Catcher in the Rye
• Gone Girl
• The Black Dahlia

What is a book you didn’t like, and why?

Atonement: I know everybody loved this book, but I simply couldn’t get through it (even after multiple attempts); I didn’t find anything going on to be particularly interesting; it felt as if it was trying to recreate some of the great English novels, but it never got there for me.

What is a funny/interesting/unique anecdote about you as a reader?

I always look to keep a boring book in my kindle at all times, as I like to read boring books when I have bad insomnia.

How did you first fall in love with books?

My dad used to read me various tales from Greek Mythology as bedtime stories, and I immediately fell in love with books / epic storytelling.

What book or books are you planning to read soon?

I’m desperate for some interesting literary noir novels, as I’m currently in the process of writing one! I’ve been reading a fair bit of Murakami and other Japanese authors at the moment, which has been fun.

What book do you always recommend?

Seabiscuit – I’m typically more of a fiction guy, but this was an incredible book; I actually missed my college graduation ceremony because I was up reading this book until the crack of dawn the night before!

What was your favorite childhood book?

I remember A Separate Peace by John Knowles having a big impact on me when I was young. I was always a sarcastic kid, and I’ll never forget the big line from the end of the book about sarcasm being “the protest of those who are weak” – completely changed my outlook / self-image.

What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?

Shakespeare – I dreaded being assigned his plays as a youngster, but now love re-reading his tragedies.

Who are your favorite writers?

Changes frequently, but right now I’d say Tom Wolfe, Haruki Murakami and James Ellroy.

End of Interview

Caleb Pinkerton grew up in the icy tendrils of the Finger Lakes region in Upstate New York. He has been fabulously unsuccessful in the majority of his pursuits, including poetry, screenwriting, piano and skateboarding. For the past 15 years, he has sought to carve out a plebeian existence in New York City. He enjoys playing soccer, watching movies and daydreaming about his secret life as a screenwriter in Hollywood. You can help him indulge this fantasy by purchasing a copy of his book or by following him on Twitter


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