James Sullivan answers:
Water Street Bookstore's Top Five
Q: What's on your nightstand right now?
A: On my nightstand: Cardboard Gods by Josh Wilker -- Impressively well-written, much-more-sweet-than-bitter recollections of an oddball, baseball-obsessed childhood in Vermont, told through random images from the author's old baseball card collection. Each card is another madeleine... and I am a bit of a cookie monster! Baseball fanatic, too. Also: God Is Not One by BU professor Stephen Prothero, who makes reading about religion, dare I say it, fun. (Unlike the Monkees, I'm not much of a believer.) Endurance, Alfred Lansing's old book about Shackleton. And Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America, by Peniel E. Joseph.
Q: How do you write? (i.e. Is it your full time job, or do you have to fit it in here and there? Do you require a completely silent, empty room, or do you listen to music? If you listen to music, what was the soundtrack for your latest book? etc.)
A: I am, believe it or not, a full-time, independent, freelance writer and author. Bringing home the bacon! (Even if it often feels more like bacon bits.) I have an office-slash-lair in the attic, to which I repair the moment my kids leave for school. I write (and social-network, and surf the web) furiously until they get home, and if possible, until dinnertime, or until someone needs me to throw some batting practice or bring the dog back after he's knocked open the screen door, whichever comes first.
I was a music critic for the SF Chronicle and my second book was about James Brown (The Hardest Working Man), so I listen to lots of music -- all over the map -- while writing. For Seven Dirty Words, I listened to a near-constant stream of Carlin routines (and watched all the HBO specials), of course. I also listened to a lot of music he enjoyed, from doo-wop (I bought a 45 of one of his favorite songs, Marvin & Johnny's "Cherry Pie") to folk-rock (like the Dillards).
Q: Name the first time or moment you realized you were a writer.
A: First knew I was a writer when I read the Middlesex News sports section at age 10 or so, every day, religiously, especially the sports section, and then a few years later pored over the interviews in Rolling Stone. In each case, I could tell that I wanted nothing more than to be -- not the athletes and rock stars, but the writers who described what they did in such evocative language.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Right now I'm working on my Twitter feeds and my sanity.
Q: Favorite recent find? (It can be a book, writer, film, restaurant, music, place, website, video, recipe, person--anything you're excited about.)
A: Favorite recent finds: "Modern Family." Psychedelic South African band BLK JKS. Why New Orleans Matters by Tom Piazza. Gray hairs in my new goatee.