At the risk of seeming a little bread-obsessed (breadsessed … I’ll work on it), today we have an interview with Bill Alexander, author of 52 Loaves. He talks about things like wood-working, submitting to The New Yorker, and when The Beatles still loved each other. Oh, and of course, the search for the perfect loaf of peasant bread. Inquiring minds want to know!
1. Describe your new book in one sentence.
52 Loaves is the account of my 52-loaf, 52-week-long quest to bake the perfect loaf of peasant bread.
2. Where do you do your best writing?
At a cherrywood desk I built myself in front of a window that overlooks the distant Catskill Mountains. I always write in the early morning, as I’m no good after 10 a.m. That being said, I wrote the first scribblings that eventually became The $64 Tomato on a legal pad while riding a train. In the late afternoon.
3. What is your motto or maxim?
Here are 2 answers. Take your pick.
Answer # 1: The running joke between me and my wife during the writing of both The $64 Tomato and 52 Loaves was three letters I’d often utter after emerging from an unproductive or stressful writing session (or making another lousy loaf of bread or being robbed in Morocco): “NMM” – meaning “no more memoirs.” Okay, maybe one more, but this time I mean it.
Answer #2: My favorite saying is, “inquiring minds wants to know.” You can tag this on almost any question to add weight to it. For example, why is cherrywood (see question #2) virtually the only wood to which we append the word “wood?” You wouldn’t say you have an oakwood desk. Why cherrywood? Would people think I was writing on a desk of cherries if I said I write on a cherry desk? Inquiring minds want to know.
4. Do you have any secret skills (besides writing, of course)?
I’m an enthusiastic cook. Not always a good cook, but sometimes if you’re enthusiastic enough, no one minds. I also do some woodworking (see Question #2). I built all the cabinets and the table in my kitchen and several other pieces of furniture in the house (no, there’s no book there, in case you’re wondering).
5. Describe the plot of the first story you remember writing.
In my junior year of high school, I wrote what I thought was a hilarious short story based on my experiences as a gawky, inept, six-foot four-inch junior varsity basketball player playing for an unsympathetic coach. As I recall, it was really truth draped in fiction. Of course, I did with it what sensible, aspiring 16-year-old writers do: I submitted it to The New Yorker.
6. If you had to change professions, and needed no credentials, what would you do?
I’d like to be a musician (piano & guitar), playing traditional American music. I love the stuff that Jerry Garcia and David Grisman did.
7. Which band would you like to have follow you around, playing the soundtrack to your life?
This will date me horribly, but The Beatles. Back in the early (Hard Day’s Night) days, when they weren’t yet sick of each other and seemed to be having a grand old time just hanging out and touring (even though they later claimed they hated it). And of course, “Paperback Writer” would be my theme song.
8. Where do you hope to catch people reading your new book?
Oh, jeez, anywhere. Just once, I’d like to see someone reading one of my books; I don’t care where (airport, beach, toilet stall) or on what (paper, Kindle, iPhone, stone tablet).
9. What is your all-time-absolute-favorite book?
Huckleberry Finn. The Great Gatsby runs a close second.
10. What books have you read recently that you’d recommend?
I’m really enjoying the new Vietnam novel Matterhorn at the moment. Unfortunately, it’s too heavy to bring on tour (I know, I should have an e-book device), and I’m only page 150, so I’ll have to put it down for a while. Also, I really enjoyed the nonfiction books Dancing to the Precipice by Caroline Moorehead and The Monster of Florence by Doug Preston.