Texas Writers Month Author Interview Series: Stephen Harrigan

author interview

Celebrating Texas Writers Month with us today is NY Times bestselling author Stephen Harrigan (Austin).

Stephen Harrigan is the author of four novels. His first novel, Aransas, published by Alfred A. Knopf, was listed by the New York Times as a notable book of 1980. Jacob’s Well was published by Simon and Schuster in 1984 and cited as one of the year’s best books by The Washington Post and The Dallas Morning News. In 2000, Knopf published his novel The Gates of the Alamo, which became a New York Times bestseller and notable book, and which received a number of awards, including the TCU Texas Book Award, the Western Heritage Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, and the Spur Award for the Best Novel of the West. In April 2006, Knopf published Challenger Park, a novel about a woman astronaut torn between her responsibilities as a mother and her dreams of flying in space.

His non-fiction, Water and Light: A Diver’s Journey to a Coral Reef, was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1992.

Among the many movies Harrigan has written for television are HBO’s award-winning The Last of His Tribe, starring Jon Voight and Graham Greene, and King of Texas, a western retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear for TNT, which starred Patrick Stewart, Marcia Gay Harden, and Roy Scheider. His most recent television production was The Colt, an adaptation of a short story by the Nobel-prize winning author Mikhail Sholokhov, which aired on The Hallmark Channel. For his screenplay of The Colt, Harrigan was nominated for a Writers Guild Award and the Humanitas Prize. Young Caesar, a feature adaptation of Conn Iggulden’s “Emperor” novels, which he co-wrote with William Broyles, Jr., is currently in development with Exclusive Media, with Burr Steers attached to direct.

author interview
For a chance to win a signed hardcover of Stephen’s soon to be released novel, Remember Ben Clayton, subscribe to this blog and leave a comment below by Sunday, May 8.
Giveaway for U.S. residents only.

Stephen is a founding father of the Texas Book Festival and a former editor for Texas Monthly. Currently he serves as a faculty fellow at the James A. Michener Center for Writers at The University of Texas at Austin.

Q. Are you a native Texan or did you get here as soon as you could?

A. Born in Oklahoma City, slipped across the Red River at the age of five.

Q. How did you end up writing both nonfiction and historical fiction?

A. I don’t think too much in terms of categories or genres. I’ve had the most success, I guess, with historical fiction, but that description doesn’t mean much to me, and feels very limiting. As a novelist, and as a non-fiction writer, I just follow my interests. Sometimes that leads me deep into the past, but sometimes it leads me even deeper into the present.

Q. What book marketing activities made you a bestselling author?

A. Uh, not really sure. My feeling is that a book either hits a nerve or it doesn’t. The real marketing is in the writing, in the connections you make with your readers. I’m pretty shy, as are a lot of writers I know, and our personalities run counter to the kind of salesmanship that might seem critical to some people in making a book sell. I’ll happily do the promotional stuff, as long as it feels authentic to who I am, but left to my own devices I would just sit there, quietly fatalistic, hoping for the best.

Q. Tell us about your latest release. Is it set in Texas?

A. It’s a novel called Remember Ben Clayton, about a sculptor in 1919 and 1920 who is making a memorial statue of a young man killed in World War I. It’s set in San Antonio, and in Shackelford County, and on the Western Front in France. It will be published in May.

Q. Where can we pay you a virtual visit?

A. www.stephenharrigan.com. Or at my Facebook author page. Or at Twitter—though so far I’ve only tweeted twice, so don’t hold your breath.

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  1. Have always loved his work

  2. Since Mr. Harrigan writes both historical fiction and nonfiction, is his new novel based on real events? If so, I’d like to know how he decides when to create a fictional narrative rather than a nonfiction one.

  3. Mr. Burklow,

    Thanks for your question. The novel was inspired by a real incident in the life of the Italian-born sculptor Pompeo Coppini, when he was commissioned by a Texas rancher to create a memorial statue of his son, who had died in a fall from a horse. It’s a wonderful statue that now stands in the courthouse square of Ballinger, Texas. The real story would be a worthy basis for a non-fiction book, but it appealed to me as a springboard for a work of fiction. I wanted to create my own world and my own characters, but to have the emotions of the book rooted in the heartbreaking events that Coppini captured so perfectly in his sculpture.

    Steve Harrigan

  4. I am still savoring Aransas’ novel. I seriously enjoy all your writings. Elena

  5. I would love to read this. I subscribe via email.

  6. This sounds like a fascinating book. Thanks for the giveaway.

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