Amazon.com Talks With James Magdanz
Amazon.com: How did you begin writing? Did you intend to become an author, or do you have a specific reason or reasons for writing each book?
J.M.: I have been writing for as long as I can remember,
aware that publication may be possible but not motivated solely by publication.
I enjoy writing, and delight in writing well.
Amazon.com: What authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
J.M.: My early library included Dickens, Hardy, Hemingway,
Hersey, Steinbeck, Twain, et al, and I continue to admire a good storyteller.
Walker Evans' and Robert Frank's photographs capture America
in mid-century like few works of literature.
After I moved to Alaska in 1979,
I became more interested in human relationships to the natural world,
which are well explored by Barry Lopez and Richard Nelson.
Amazon.com: Could you describe the mundane details of writing: How many hours a day do you devote to writing? Do you write a draft on paper or at a keyboard (typewriter or computer)? Do you have a favorite location or time of day (or night) for writing? What do you do to avoid -- or seek! -- distractions?
J.M.: I have always written at a keyboard.
I write long, then edit hard to get it short.
I work on multiple projects, putting away one when I'm stuck and picking up another.
With a young family, I avoid distraction by writing
when everyone else has gone to bed (right now it's 1:38 a.m.).
I can write just about anywhere, as long as I can concentrate.
Amazon.com: Do you meet your readers at book signings, conventions or similar events? Do you interact with your readers electronically through e-mail or other on-line forums?
J.M.: Alaska does not have a lot of writers,
and it does not take long for Alaska readers to recognize them.
I meet my readers in grocery stores, on airplanes, and on the street in Nome.
I see them in schools and libraries when I do presentations for children.
People see my picture or read about my book in a newspaper, and stop me to talk about it.
Amazon.com: When and how did you get started on the 'Net? Do you read any newsgroups, such as rec.arts.books and rec.arts.sf.written, mailing lists or other on-line forums? Do you use the 'Net for research -- or is it just another time sink? Are you able to communicate with other writers or people you work with over the 'Net?
J.M.: For a long time, the Internet simply wasn't available in rural Alaska.
Then CompuServe began offering a dial-up, but at $9.00 to $11.00 an hour.
This summer, finally, a local Internet service provider went up in Nome for $3.00 an hour.
Most of my on-line research has to do with technical computer or photography problems,
and CompuServe is excellent for that.
The net is too expensive and too slow for research related to writing.
I haven't found much interesting on the net about Alaska.
Amazon.com: Feel free to use this space to write about whatever you wish: your family, your home town, hobbies, favorite places, where you've lived, where you went to school, what jobs you have had, your last (or planned) vacation, your favorite color/food/pet/song or movie, what books you'd take to a desert island, what you intend to do before you die, or what you think of just about anything.
J.M.: Living for nearly two decades among Iņuit people
in an essentially unaltered natural landscape has had a strong influence on my writing.
The Iņuit world now seems natural to me,
while the modern world Outside Alaska seems unnatural and even unreal.
Despite great economic, political, and military power,
people of the developed world are ignorant of the natural world.