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: Once you started writing full-time, did you find it freeing? Or is harder than your previous job?
Walter Mosley: Well, I love writing and I... like you said, I write every day and I just love doing it. It’s just... it’s just a wonderful thing. Some of my stories work, some of them don’t work. some of them are wild and I love them, but they certainly don’t fit into any kind of a normal system that I know about. Some of them are like, you know, fit perfectly into you know, like a structure that somebody would want to publish and deal with. It doesn’t matter to me because I’m writing, I’m using language, I’m using that language to tell stories and even more so to get ideas across. And I just love that, and I’ve always loved that.
And the fact, but you know, I tell people, when people come to me and say, “So when you started writing, you were trying to become a successful writer,” and I said, “No, when I became a writer... I started studying writing, what I wanted to do was to write a short story that worked.” And I never really thought I’d be successful. I never though I’d get books published, but this was something completely beyond me. You know, the fact that it happened is wonderful, but it is not something that I was aiming for.
Question: What have you had to sacrifice to be a writer?
Walter Mosley: I have never thought that I have sacrificed anything being a writer. That might not be true, maybe I have sacrificed something. Maybe I’ve given something up, but I can’t think of it. One of the things that I love about being a writer is this. I wake up every day and I write for three hours. I wake up early. So like, you know, 6:00, 7:00 in the morning, I write till 9:00 or 10:00. I live in New York, nobody even like you know, is breathing until 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning. So, it’s like my writing life is completely removed from the rest of my life.
So then, you know, I can start calling people, going out, having lunches, you know, doing things, living the life. And I’ve already done my writing. And I don’t have to think about it again until tomorrow morning at 6:00 or 7:00. So, it feels like writing is almost a place of dreams for me. And I don’t have to give up anything in order to do it.
Recorded November 10, 2010
Interviewed by Andrew Dermont
Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler