Noah Hawley's Blog: This is New - Posts Tagged "the-good-father"

It's spring in Austin, TX. 70 degrees and breezy. Perfect, in other words. SXSW is going full steam. As I write this I am sitting in a giant auditorium waiting for Michael Kiwanuka to go on stage. It's one o'clock in the afternoon and the hall is almost empty. All this great music and no one's listening.

The same could be said for books, I suppose. Maybe novelists need more corporate sponsorship. Maybe books should be cheaper. Or shorter. What's the famous line from Sunset Boulevard? It's the pictures that got small.

When I'm not in LA selling/writing/producing television shows, I'm in Austin, Texas being a husband and father and writing novels. From my attic office I watch my three legged dog hop around the backyard. The hair is growing back where his rear left leg used to be. Three days after the surgery he was already going up and down stairs. Which tells you something about the world. That maybe its better not to think about what a thing "means." Maybe it's better to let it be what it is and not worry so much about the larger implications.

We write these novels and publish them and then worry if anyone will ever read them. Isn't it enough that we are able to write them? Of course, if no one reads them the publishers will stop publishing them, so there's that.

I won't lie. This was a concern for me with this book. My first three books weren't big sellers. At a certain point you lose the ability to publish. Instead, the opposite happened. We had a bidding war and sold eight countries. Nine countries? Anyway, the point is, if you're a writer you can always write the book or script or poem that will bail you out of jail. That's the power of stories. You just may have to publish them under a pen name.

Anyway, I miss you and wish you were here. There's a Chilean woman playing the piano and singing up on stage now (she hasn't told us her name yet). She sounds beautiful and people are starting to wander in, so I don't feel so bad.

But it's peaceful here and outside the sun is shining, and when I go home a four year old girl is going to hug me so hard it hurts. So really, how could life be any better?

The point is, chin up. Don't forget to write.

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Published on March 14, 2012 11:26 • 190 views • Tags: fiction, literature, noah-hawley, the-good-father
So, yes, it's that time. Things are starting for real. The novel (Good Father) is out in the US and UK next week, and I'm off to England to talk it up.

We had a nice write up in the Irish magazine, U. I've got a bunch of interviews set up with BBC Radio and the Telegraph and Observer, as well as some TV meetings with the BBC and SKY TV, and some great British producers. It's hard to argue that England isn't making some of the best TV out there these days with shows like Luther, Sherlock and Downton Abby. So I thought it could be fun to explore writing a show for them. Anyway, we'll see.

After London it's back to Austin where I'm reading at Book People on 3/26 and to Book Passage in SF (3/29) and Oxford, MS (4/5) and then to Skylight Books in LA (4/6). Hope you can make it out.

My friend Stephen Elliott did a house tour for his last book. If you could promise him an audience of 20+ people he'd come to your town and sleep on your sofa and read in your living room. He had a little mental breakdown afterwards, but it was successful in that he made a little money and built a real community of readers around the country. It is the kind of act I can envy, but one I don't see myself doing - mostly because I can't sleep very well on a sofa, but also because I have a four year old daughter and I would miss her too much.

Anyway, you look really nice today. Let's talk again soon.
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Published on March 16, 2012 09:30 • 100 views • Tags: austin, fiction, literature, los-angeles, novels, san-francisco, stephen-elliott, the-good-father, you
Spoke to the Irish today via radio. Signed another 200 books. Lunch with journalists. I'm staying in Soho and the noise outside my window goes all night long. It's not a problem really. I grew up in New York, but I don't understand why everyone sounds so angry at 3 am. Also, I know it's my street when I'm going back to the hotel when I see the mannequin with the ball gag in the shop window.

I forget sometimes that I'm in a different country. This is a city filled with people who look a lot like me, who speak my language. But then I go to plug something in or cross the street and suddenly it all comes back to me. I flew across an ocean. How is that even possible?

Things are going great here and I feel relieved. Not for me, really, but I want my publisher to be happy. Everyone has worked so hard. They believe in the book. I couldn't stand for such nice people to be disappointed by the response something I wrote. Life is hard enough.

Talking to the family is tough. But it's amazing how fast one can settle into a routine. I've been here three days and already I have a breakfast spot and a place I go for dinner. They recognize me at the front desk. Human beings are remarkably adaptable, like my dog who only has three legs now, but was going up and down stairs two days after the surgery. She has no higher reasoning. The fact that we had to amputate her leg doesn't mean anything to her. It's just the way it is now. Which is called acceptance, and it's a big component of The Good Father, the idea that accepting the things we can't change is the only way we can get on with our lives. That's not AA advice. It's just common sense, I suppose.

Tomorrow I do television. Thursday is more radio. I was going to go to Manchester on Thursday, but that changed. I'm sneaking in some TV meetings as well. BBC, SKY TV, some producers. Don't tell anyone. Think of it as an adventure. They make such good shows over here, part of me just wants to go by and say, nice job. Thanks.

Anyway, I thought I'd beat the jet lag but I was up half the night last night, so I'm going to bed. It's probably not bed time where you are. So you're going to have to stay up for a while longer.

Think good thoughts.

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Published on March 20, 2012 15:37 • 83 views • Tags: fiction, happy, literature, london, manchester, novel, the-good-father
Apparently, it's not sunny here all the time, but it's been beautiful this week. I like traveling for work instead of as a tourist. You get to see the real city. Right now outside my window there are men digging up the street. This afternoon I get to wander. I may go to the neighborhood my parents lived in for a couple of years. They've both passed, and those are the kinds of nostalgic yearnings I get. Whenever I'm in New York I seem to find myself across from the house I lived in. Think of it as an affirmation. This is me. This is where I come from.

Part of what does Daniel in in the book, I think, is that he gets so far from the familiar. He is a twenty-year-old boy with a faulty sense of direction who needs structure. But instead he sets off into the wilderness. He drifts. In America it's easy to get lost, and he does.

I'm a city person. I like landscapes and beaches, rivers and mountains, but I need to feel concrete under my feet. I need the energy of it because it reminds me of who I am. When you get older you realize these things. You've experimented. You've traveled. And you know what works for you and what doesn't.

I'm staying in Soho, and the streets are packed all day and night. People come here searching - for food, booze, clothes, sex. They walk fast, which is what you do in cities. You rush from place to place, because somewhere something is happening. In cities you live for what's next, whereas in the country I think you live more for right now. Maybe that's why I like Austin. It's both a city, and a refuge from the city. There I walk my daughter to school every day. I know my neighbors. But I can get my urban fix when I need it.

Next week I start the U.S. book tour. Austin on Monday. SF on Thursday. Check my website or www.facebook/noahhawley1 for details.

That's it. Off to explore. Be good.
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Published on March 22, 2012 06:06 • 106 views • Tags: fiction, london, novels, the-good-father
It's starting to get hot here, mid-eighties in the late afternoon hours, but it's not the heat that's noteworthy. It's what the heat implies, which is that soon it will be much hotter. Last year in Austin we had five months of temperatures between 100 and 112 degrees. So now, when the sun, starts to beat down your mind goes straight to the worst case scenario. Which is a post traumatic stress response, I think. But then again, I've never been a heat person. I'd rather be cold than hot.

I did an interview for KUT radio this morning. The station is located on the UT campus and walking there I found myself surrounded by college students in shorts and sweats on their way to class. A zone outside vanity, outside fashion. They're in the slog of it, these kids, feeding their brains, cementing their identities, separated from what the rest of us would call the "real world."

Speaking of which, I watched Tiny Furniture last night, which is a movie written and directed by (and starring) Lena Dunham. People really liked this film when it came out, and Lena got an HBO series off of it called Girls, produced by Judd Apatow. I found the movie kind of depressing. It's about a twenty-one year old girl fresh out of college who moves back in with her successful photographer mother and high school age sister in a fabulous NYC loft. It's about how "hard" it is for the girl to adjust to the real world and what's expected of her and what she wants from life, which would be fertile ground for drama (and comedy), except the young woman has this enormous safety net and this rich mother who indulges her every whim, but who Lena's character yells at a lot for no good reason.

When you're a parent you spend a lot of time worrying about how you can raise your child so he/she becomes an adult who is driven and responsible. You want to equip them with the tools to thrive when it's time for them to forge off on their own. Teach them how the world works, how to change a tire and save money, how to go after the things they want, but to always be respectful of others - to name just a few.

So, I suppose, for me it's almost impossible to watch a movie like Tiny Furniture, without critiquing the character's parents. Without thinking - my God, she's so spoiled. So vague. Why didn't her parents teach her how to face the world. It's okay not to know the answer to every question when you get out of college, but at least you should know the right questions to ask. Instead, Lena's character just seemed to be casting around with this very mild (everything in the movie felt mild) ennui.

I guess this is ultimately a conversation about dramatic narrative. People in Hollywood like to use the word "stakes," when they talk about stories. What they're saying is - the story you're telling has to feel like it matters. There has to be some risk to it, a cost to failure that makes the viewer or reader invest in the character's struggle for success. If there is no down-side to failure, than why do I care if they figure out what they want or they don't? And that was ultimately my problem with Tiny Furniture. I wasn't invested. The stakes of the story weren't there. It didn't matter, other than on the most ethereal level, whether this young woman got her act together or not. I mean, eventually she would. Maybe not now. But later. Most people do. So, okay, just, I guess come back in a few years and see where she's at. That was the takeaway of the movie for me.

When I graduated from college I was determined to be a professional musician. I had a band and we rehearsed constantly and hustled for gigs and tried to make connections. It was the opposite of what you think the life of a post-grad rock star wannabe would be like -- all sleeping late and drinking and trying to get laid. There just wasn't time for ennui. We were working too hard.

Ultimately, I think there's this stereotype of a life in the arts, which is that it's mostly about sloth and naval gazing and waiting for inspiration to strike, when really what you have to do to make it is work your ass off, because having a career in the arts is almost impossible and doesn't happen by accident.

Now I'm not saying I had all the answers at her age. I was definitely guilty, at 21, of a certain amount of casting around life-wise, as far as day jobs and girlfriends and apartments, etc, went. But I wasn't living in my mom's amazing two story Tribeca loft. I was also saddled with student loans and struggling to support myself. The questions weren't esoteric, in other words. They had stakes.

Plus, and this is the last thing I'll say, Lena Dunham herself suffers from none of the things she portrayed in the movie. Rather than floating on a sea of ennui and entitlement, she writes and directs movies. She landed a TV show produced by Judd Apatow. She is, in other words, doing exactly what I was doing at her age - working her ass off. So why couldn't she make a movie about that? About young people who care passionately, who are struggling to make a name for themselves under the most competitive circumstances.

Anyway, it's a comedy, so I guess maybe I just didn't "get it." But there you go.

The book tour starts today. I'll be at Book People in Austin at 7pm. Thursday I'm in San Francisco at Book Passage in the Ferry Building at 6. See you there.
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Published on March 26, 2012 09:55 • 103 views • Tags: austin, book-passage, book-people, fiction, lena-dunham, novel, the-good-father, tiny-furniture
Last night was Austin, my home crowd. Although, for me, San Francisco will also be a home crowd. As will New York. And LA. I've lived in so many places in the last ten years. City after city. Street after street. Maybe London's next.

When I read I feel it's important to tell the audience a story. It's a performance, after all. People don't want to see you just read the words out loud. They want a sense of narrative, a beginning, middle and end that invests them in characters, in theme. The reading is another script you have to write, in other words. But then that's the job.

Afterwards, I went home to the house we're staying in. Our house is being remodeled and so we've been moving around the neighborhood from rental to rental. My daughter seems fine with it, a new room every few days, but it's tough to focus and get the work done when you move around so much. I always used to say I can write anywhere, under any conditions. And it's true (mostly). It's one of my strengths, I like to think.

Certainly, when you're running a television show the one thing you don't have is the luxury of time. There'll be a two hour window and you'll have to use it to rewrite a script. Maybe you're on a plane. Maybe your wife's asleep in the next room. You can't be precious about it. TV is about doing the best you can in the time allotted. You have to be a great first draft writer, cause that's usually all you get.

In San Francisco I was part of writers' collective called the Grotto. Our offices were in an old converted dog and cat hospital. I had a narrow room with two doors. One to the hall. The other to the roof. I wrote two books there, four movies, three television pilots. In LA I spent my first few months in a sublet during staffing season. I took a job on Bones and rented a bungalow in West Hollywood. Later I bought a house. Ten months after that I moved to New York to run The Unusuals. Then on to Austin and My Generation. And then the ping ponging between cities began in earnest.

When I was in London I thought, I could do this. Live here. It's a city the way that New York is a city, full of neighborhoods you walk through. Urban and history-rich at its core. LA is a car city. Austin is both a car city and a walking city, but also not really a city at all when compared to New York or London. Which is what makes it so livable. There are trees and rivers and millions of birds. You can hear yourself think.

What's going to happen with this book, The Good Father? So many books are published only to disappear without a trace. When I tweet the good reviews or interviews, it's not that I'm bragging. I'm trying to force the book to have impact, to grab hold of the fabric of our world and last. Nobody writes for the trash heap. We all want to be remembered, to make a difference. The problem is there's no recipe. Success is as much of an accident as it is a plan.

So we keep moving. City after city. A new book, a new show, a new film. There are things to say, but there is also a quest we're on, to make our marks before it's too late.

That's it. San Francisco on Thursday 3/29 at 6PM @bookpassage. MS and LA next week. Have a great day.
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Published on March 27, 2012 09:09 • 144 views • Tags: austin, fiction, literature, los-angeles, new-york, novels, san-francisco, the-good-father, you
I'm reading two books at the same time. The first is Game Change, a non-fiction account of the 2008 presidential election. The second is Storm of Swords, the third book in the Game of Thrones saga. The similarities (once you take out all the sword fighting) are fascinating.

I posted a link to Tim Parks' thoughtful piece in the NY Review of Books yesterday that asks the question, do we need stories? ( My feeling is we do, or more clearly, for whatever reason, stories are how we learn. I see this with my daughter. It's all about repetition, about hearing and seeing the same stories over again. Tell me again about the time we did that thing. Why did we do that? What did you do next? Why did I say what I said? Events recounted in a linear order about people. It's how human memory works. We tell ourselves stories.

At the same time, we want our stories to have a hero. A central protagonist we can relate to, an avatar that becomes a stand in for ourselves. This is true in fiction and non-fiction. Who is the candidate we vote for, if not the one that we believe is closest to ourself? The person who holds the same beliefs, the hero we would like to be? Millions of people went crazy for Sarah Palin because they thought she was just like them, a hockey mom with lipstick.

Political campaigns spend months perfecting a candidates story. Bill Clinton was from a Town Called Hope if you remember. The campaign understand that it's the story that gets the vote. The ins and outs of politics is too complicated. Not that it isn't fascinating to dive down deep into the way that our government really works (as it is in Game of Thrones), but behind-the-scenes politicking doesn't make for a good story in an election-year sense. We need simplicity. Heroes and villains. Men overcoming obstacles and bureaucracy. Women who saw a problem and fixed it.

I'm excited for the second season of Game of Thrones to start up again this Sunday. My advice when watching is to remember that it's an election year.
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Published on March 28, 2012 08:58 • 116 views • Tags: election-year, game-change, game-of-thrones, the-good-father
Good morning. I'm in SF, former home of me, Noah Hawley. I lived here for 11 years from 1994-2004, which is a long time ago now. Crazy how that happens.

I like the red bridge and the hills, but mostly I liked the people. I made such great friends here. I also wrote three books and some movies and tv pilots. I was part of the Writers Grotto, a collective of writers and filmmakers which still very much exists. When I was part of the gang we were in an old converted dog and cat hospital. Now they're down by the ballpark. There's 100% less prostitution outside.

I had fun at the reading last night. You could see the bay from the bookstore. Seals were swimming in the water, ferries pulling in and out. How can you not love a bookstore that has seals?

I head back to Austin in a bit. I've got tv projects I need to be thinking about, but I'm 100 pages into a new book and I don't want to stop. A novel is a country you parachute into. It's immersive, in other words. Once you leave it's not easy to get back. You have to rent a plane and find a pilot. You have to take off at night and fly in low under the radar, and then jump into thin air, hoping your chute opens.

Better to stay put once you're there, is what I'm saying, but I can't for much longer. Hollywood is like a muscle. If you don't use it, it atrophies and quickly. A story I've heard. Terry Zweigoff, a director, made a documentary called Crumb. It was, at the time, the biggest documentary of all time (I think) and his agent called and said all of Hollywood wants to meet you. It's time to write your own ticket.

But Terry was tired. He'd been working on the movie for years, so he said, I'm taking a sabbatical. I'll be back in a few months.

A few months later, he found himself sitting in meetings with some studio executives and they looked at him with no sign of recognition in their eyes and said, so you made a documentary? Hollywood has no memory, in other words. If you leave it for too long it's as if you never existed.

Anyway, right now I'm in Novelland. It's a foggy day. The river is running high and the birds are loud. So I'm going to take a walk and see what I can see.

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Published on March 30, 2012 10:15 • 285 views • Tags: fiction, hollywood, literature, noah-hawley, novels, the-good-father
So I'm remodeling my house, which means I'm not living in my house, which means that every time I come home from the book tour I don't come "home" in the literal sense. Right now there are walls missing and half a bathtub. It's like what happens to houses after a disaster, except in this case the disaster is us.

The good reviews continue to pour in. Stuff in the Chicago Tribune and Huffington Post UK. I've been on tv in England and done a lot of NPR. No idea if it's translating into books sold, but I'm grateful for the recognition. In TV you can be a critical hit and get cancelled after two episodes. I know because I lived it.

Of course, in Network TV, even a show no one is watching is seen by over 4 million people. If I sold four million books I'd be able to buy my own island. Try living with that math and not going out of your mind a little.

Anyway, I go to Oxford, Mississippi on Thursday, which is fun because I've never been to Mississippi. And then LA on Friday for a couple of weeks. I'm reading on the 6th at Skylight Books with Heidi Julavits, which I'm excited about.

The place I'm staying in Austin right now is a kind of magic compound where everything is painted in primary colors. It's kind of a DIY retreat, like the kind you find in Costa Rica. My daughter loves it, which is critical. You realize when you're a parent, that as long your child is happy you can be happy. If they're not happy, you're going to live a lot of very long days.

It's getting hot here. No. I know. I'm not happy about it either. It was 90 degrees the other day, and it's only April 1. So prepare yourself. It's going to be another long hot summer, and I've got that heat rage thing that creeps up on me when I get too hot. A kind of claustrophobic lashing out gene that gets activated, which my wife really likes. (she doesn't like it at all)

So the book tour is nice, because I get to go places that aren't 90 degrees for a few more weeks.

Some exciting TV deals in the works. I hope I can tell you about them soon. Enjoy the rest of your day.

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Published on April 02, 2012 09:13 • 107 views • Tags: austin, costa-rica, noah-hawley, summer, the-good-father
The novelist's job is to take his (or her) time. Reporters write stories in the immediate aftermath of an event. Magazine journalists draw conclusions in the weeks and months that follow. Meanwhile, the novelist mulls. He clips an article, puts it in a file and waits.

Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered on this day in 1968 by a man named James Earl Ray, one of our nation's premiere Lone Gunmen. Fifty-six years later, in Oakland, One L. Goh walks into a school and shoots ten people. Journalists scramble, looking for answers. Why did he do it? What does it mean?

When Don DeLillo wrote Libra it felt like an act of alchemy. He took the mystery, the chaos of the JFK assassination and turned it into something meaningful. You could tell as you read it that this was a book he had been waiting to write his whole career. He just needed more time, more distance, more perspective.

I'm aware, as I write this, that it is a blog, a daily download of rookie thoughts, young and reckless. It is a reaction, a dispatch written from the moment. And yet what do any of us really know in the immediate? Doesn't wisdom come with age? When we say this we think it applies to our age, but isn't it also the age of the idea? You form an opinion and wait. If it's still the same in a few months, a few decades, then it is what you truly believe.

But violence is impulsive. A man feels wronged. He buys a gun and before he knows what's happening he has murdered a room full of people. He crouches in a window across from a motel, looking down the barrel of a rifle. In the blink of an eye another man lays dead.

We could all use a little more thinking, don't you think?A little more watching and waiting. Perspective.

I fly to Memphis in the morning, before dawn. I will let you know how it feels, but don't be surprised if the real dispatch isn't ready for another decade.
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Published on April 04, 2012 10:27 • 97 views • Tags: delillo, memphis, mlk, the-good-father

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