Walter Mosley is the author of more than 34 critically acclaimed books, including the major bestselling mystery series featuring the character Easy Rawlins. His work has been translated into 21 languages and includes literary fiction, science fiction, political monographs, and a young adult novel. His short fiction has been widely published, and his nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and The Nation, among other publications. He is the winner of numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, a Grammy and PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He became a writer in his thirties, after a decade-long career as a computer programmer. He lives in New York City.
Question: What is your writing and editing process?
Walter Mosley: The way I write is this: I write about a thousand words a day, a little bit more. The next morning, I read those thousand words and cursorily edit that. Then I write the next thousand. I do that all the way to the end of the book and then I reread the book quite a few times, editing as go through. Because you know, your book grows; the early part of your book is growing still while you are writing the later part of your book. And so all that possibility, you don’t want to do all your editing up front, because all the possibility goes through to the end of the book.
Question: Have you ever thought of writers as detectives?
Walter Mosley: I think of writers as explorers, not necessarily as detectives. So there is certainly detecting that is going on—they’re explorers. I recently wrote a short story in which a man with no family asks a man with a family, what’s it like having a family? And this guy has a... he has four kids, three of them are in trouble, he has a wife who had had an affair with his best friend while he was out having an affair with somebody else. He’s had a hard life, but he said, “If my family was perfect and my kids were perfect, they wouldn’t need me. You know? If everything was perfect, I wouldn’t have anything to do.” And he said, you know, “Life is a bitch. But what’s a boy dog gonna do without his bitch?”
When I wrote that, I understood something that I didn’t know before, it’s like I had gone into a new space and I discovered something about the possibilities. And actually the prerequisites of life and family. Something I didn’t understand before I wrote it. And so in that way I think we are—with each new character, we are exploring the possibilities for humanity.
Recorded November 10, 2010
Interviewed by Andrew Dermont
Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler