When growing up every child believes that their parents are eccentric and somewhat embarrassing, but imagine being able to compare your family exploits to that of Chevy Chase and the Griswolds when watching National Lampoon’s Vacation because that is exactly what happened to this week’s ‘Author of the Week’.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer whose by-line can regularly be found in the Washington Post and Plate, and on TravelChannel.com and NPR’s “The Salt” blog. I’ve also authored six books, including the memoir-misadventure Freak Show Without a Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations (2014), The Founding Farmers Cookbook: 100 Recipes for True Food & Drink (2013) and the small-press smash Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and his Revolutionary Comic Strip (2009).
If you could describe the storyline to Freak Show Without a Tent in just a few sentences, how would you entice someone to want to read it?
It’s equal parts National Lampoon’s Vacation, David Sedaris and Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.
When and why did you begin writing the book?
I’ve wanted to write it for more than a decade, but could never find the time or the right outlet. Early last year, I connected with D.C.’s Possibilities Publishing, a small independent press. The publisher and editor, Meredith Maslich, believed in my vision for the project and was willing to give me the year I needed to write it.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Besides getting paid to write, eat and travel? Cracking myself up is a big perk. When that happens – when I actually laugh out loud at the end of a new sentence or scene – I know I’ve tapped into something special. Part of the enjoyment in that moment is knowing that what I’ve created might brighten someone else’s day down the line. I love the idea of bringing a little light and happiness into the world.
What is the hardest thing about being a writer?
Editors who contact you in the middle of a family vacation or holiday weekend to ask you pressing questions or demand you drop everything and rewrite something immediately. Lonely late nights with a looming deadline and rapidly diminishing energy are a close second.
What inspires you to write?
Sometimes it’s the banal stuff: deadlines and bills. Most of the time though, I’m inspired by what interests me – a place, a taste, a person, whatever. If I’m into something, chances are other people will be as well.
When working on a new book, what is the first thing you do?
Freak out. Before you’ve put a single word on the page, the task of writing a book seems so overwhelming that freaking out is the only rational response. With that out of the way, I draw up an outline for the book, start determining what kinds of research I’ll need to do and whom I might need to interview. Then there’s another round of freaking out. Finally, I start typing away, knowing that much of what I’m writing will be cut or rewritten once I’m at the end of first draft and realize just how the book ends and where I need to go.
Which Writers do you admire and can you name a favourite book?
I love a wide swathe of writers, including everyone from John Steinbeck and Hunter S. Thompson to Haruki Murakami, J. Maarten Troost and David Sedaris. Right now, I’m enjoying David Grann’s The Lost City of Z and I’m looking forward to jumping into Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland.
What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Write constantly. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. It sounds like such simple advice, but it’s the truth. Great writers don’t start out great; it takes a lot of mistakes and misfires before you hone your skill set. Not that you ever really perfect the art. Writing is a constant process of refinement and betterment.
What are your plans for the future?
I co-authored a children’s cookbook, It’s So Good!: 100 Real Food Recipes for Kids!, which is being published this fall. I’m exploring a few different long form projects, but haven’t determined which one I’ll be focusing on yet.
Is there is anything else you would like to add?
I’d really love to travel to Easter Island. Does anyone want to sponsor my trip or give me an assignment that would send me there?
If you would like to find out more about Nevin please follow the links below:
Buy link: Freak Show without a Tent
Watch the book trailer on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srOtAxsjncE
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Nevin for participating in our ‘Author of the Week’ series and for placing himself under our spotlight.
If you enjoyed reading this interview, check out our book review of Freak Show Without a Tent
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