vlautinsplash

When Willy Vlautin’s first book, Motel Life, came out, I brought it with me to the beach house where my family (parents, siblings, spouses, kids, etc.) meet up for a week every summer. I read it in an afternoon, loved it, and passed it on. By the end of the week no less than six people across three generations were diehard Willy fans. We have all read (and loved) every Willy book since. So, when an advance copy of Willy’s new book recently landed in my hands, I felt I owed it to my family to get this guy on the phone.

Our conversation took place over two hours on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Willy has a great voice with a lot of gravel and a little bit of twang—he sounds like a really smart country boy who’s read a lot of books. We skipped the usual small talk and went straight into the heart of things: writing, love, life, family, childhood, happiness, drinking, and his latest book The Freewhich happens to be the official March selection of The TNB Book Club.

Willy said way more than is fit to print in a single interview, so here are some highlights from one of the most interesting conversations I’ve ever had with a stranger:

LEAN ON PETE

Lean on Pete

When it comes to fiction, child narrators are often as welcome as toddlers in a fine restaurant. You hope they won’t interrupt your meal with their high-pitched voices, and you doubt they’ll stop being precious long enough to try a dish that isn’t heavy on the cheese. This month, I’ve had the pleasure of discovering two writers who have successfully adopted this challenging point-of-view: Their protagonists might not be old enough to drive, but they sure know how to make the story move.