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Wednesday, September 7th 2005

5:01 PM

Mini Interview with William Tapply

It's my sincere pleasure to feature my next guest - Bill Tapply. I hope you enjoy the interview...


Interview with Bill Tapply

Author Bio

   William G. Tapply is the author of more than three dozen books. Many are about fly fishing and the outdoors, most recently Gone Fishin': Ruminations on Fly Fishing. He has written twenty-five New England-based novels, including Shadow of Death , Bitch Creek, and the forthcoming Nervous Water. Tapply’s handbook, The Elements of Mystery Fiction: Writing a Modern Whodunit, is used in writing classes and workshops across the country. A veteran public speaker, Tapply has been giving talks and participating on panels for twenty years. He is a professor of English at Clark University in Worcester, where he teaches writing. He and his wife, novelist Vicki Stiefel, run The Writers Studio at Chickadee Farm. Tapply lives and writes in Hancock, New Hampshire.

When did you begin writing?

   I started writing in the late '70s, magazine stories and articles. I wrote my first "novel" around 1980.  It wasn't really a mystery.  In fact, I wouldn't know how to classify it . . . Except "not very good."  I was, nevertheless, pleased that I’d stuck to it, written regularly and with discipline, had created characters and a plot and subplots and whatnot, and I thought: if I could do that, maybe I could do it again, only better. 

   My next try turned out to be "Death at Charity's Point," which, after extensive revision at the behest of the editor who looked at it, was published by Scribner’s in 1984.  It featured Boston lawyer Brady Coyne.  My editor asked for another with him, and that became the series.  One book a year ever since.  Number 21, "Nervous Water," came out this fall.

Did you have any formal training?

   I never took a writing course (except for freshman English in college), but I am well educated, plus my father was a writer.  And I have always been a voracious reader.  So I have lots of informal training.

How do you get your ideas? 

   I get my ideas one at a time.  After I finish a book, a sort of desperation overtakes me.  I am, at that time, a writer who is not writing, and who cannot write until he comes up with a new idea.  It's that absolute need for an idea that causes me to experience my world as a source of ideas.  Mostly they come from inside my head -- remembered news stories, something somebody once said, an image, a snatch of conversation.  It takes a long time to find the spark of an idea that will work for a novel and then fan it into a flame. Several months of hard thinking.  I never have more than one idea at a time.  Sometimes fewer than one.

How much of Brady Coyne is Bill Tapply? Or did you create Stoney
Calhoun as an alter ego? 

   Not to be coy about it, but all my characters are me . . . Or me, if I happened to be them.  Me if I were a divorced Boston lawyer, me if I were a Maine fishing guide who'd been hit by lightning.  But also every minor character. I must inhabit them, submerge myself into who they are.  

   Brady Coyne's narrative voice is surely Bill Tapply's narrative voice.  My sense of humor, my angle on people and events. But Stoney’s, too.  

   Flaubert was once asked how he could create such a believable female character in Madame Bovary.  He answered: "Madame Bovary, c'est moi."  That’s pretty much how I work -- not just for series protagonists, but for all characters great and small.

When did you know you'd "made it" as a writer?

   I'm not sure I have made it.  Every book, every magazine article is a challenge.  I always wonder if I’ll ever write another publishable work, if the publishers will continue to be willing to publish my stuff.  It's a very insecure business.  It's just a matter of "making it" one book at a time, and then having to "make it" all over again. 

Who do you read?

   James Lee Burke, Ed McBain, Elmore Leonard.  John D. And Ross McDonald. Hemingway, Faulkner, Steinbeck.  Mark Twain.  My writer friends in general.  I read biography and history and fishing essays and stories.  I'm presently reading Bill Bryson’s "A Short History of Nearly Everything" and Elmore Leonard’s "The Hot Kid."

Tell us something that you'd never divulged in an interview before! 

   Since I began publishing regularly, I have written three standalone novels that are apparently unpublishable. Two of them I wrote quite a while ago and thought they had disappeared.  I mentioned them recently to my agent, and he thought they were lurking somewhere in his office. 

   It's been so long since I wrote them that I’m now thinking that maybe they really are bad, although at the time I know I thought they were pretty good.  The third I wrote more recently.  We shall see about it.

Give us the names of your books and/or series, and your website address.

   I've written 21 Brady Coyne novels, most recently "Nervous Water," plus two Brady Coyne/J.W. Jackson collaborations with my friend Philip R. Craig.  

   "Bitch Creek" is the first in what I hope will become a series (I’m in the middle of another Stoney Calhoun novel as we speak). 

   I've also written nine books about fly fishing, one memoir, and one how-to-write book ("the elements of mystery fiction").   Plus more than 500 magazine pieces. I'm on "The Writer" magazine's editorial board.  I'm a contributing editor for "Field & Stream" and a columnist for "American Angler."




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