Interview with Novelist George Bishop, Author of Letter to My Daughter



George Bishop, Jr., graduated with degrees in English Literature and Communications from Loyola University in New Orleans before moving to Los Angeles to become an actor. After eight years of commercials, stage plays, guest starring roles in TV sitcoms, and the lead in a vampire B-movie, he traveled overseas as a volunteer English teacher to Czechoslovakia.

He enjoyed the ex-pat life so much that he stayed on, living and teaching in Turkey and Indonesia before returning to the US to earn his MFA in Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington, where he won the department’s Award of Excellence for a collection of stories.

After teaching for several years at UNCW, he moved back overseas, first on a fellowship with the Open Society Institute in Azerbaijan, then with the US State Department’s Office of English Language Programs in India. Most recently he taught with a University of Montana program in Tokyo.

His stories and essays have appeared in publications such as The Oxford American, The Third Coast, Press, American Writing, The Turkish Daily News, The Caspian Business News and Vorm (in Dutch).

Letter to My Daughter (Ballantine Books, Spring 2010) is his first published novel.



Welcome to The Writer's Life, George. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

Answer: Thanks. I’m happy to be here.

I’m not one of those people who always knew they’d be a writer. After I graduated from college, I worked as an actor in Los Angeles for eight years. I wrote a bit then—-plays, poetry, songs-—but it was only when I moved to Czechoslovakia as a volunteer English teacher in 1992 that I began to seriously work at writing stories. Since then, I’ve written dozens of short stories and five novels. Letter to My Daughter, however, is the first book that I’ve published.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

Answer: Letter to My Daughter is a novel in the form of a long letter that a mother writes to her runaway teenage daughter. It’s set in the present time in south Louisiana, with flashbacks to the early seventies. The mother, wracked with guilt and hoping to regain the trust of her daughter, reveals secrets about her own troubled adolescence: why her parents sent her away to a Catholic boarding school, about her affair with a boy who went to fight in Vietnam, and the meaning of a tattoo she still wears below her right hip.

It may sound strange, but this novel came to me in a dream. I had just finished a teaching fellowship in India, and for a holiday I went on a camel safari in Rajasthan. I was actually working on another book at the time. But I went to sleep in my tent in the desert, and when I woke up the next morning, I knew the whole story, beginning to end. I jotted down notes in my journal, and that became the basis of the novel I worked on over the next year and a half.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced writing it?

Answer: I guess the biggest hurdle was getting over the idea of writing from the perspective of a middle-aged woman. I felt pretty confident in the voice and the story—-it was inspired, after all—-but it still seemed a little odd that I should be writing this book. Would readers find it convincing? Was I somehow trespassing on the territory of women writers? Or would people think it was just some kind of a stunt? In the end, I tried to make the story as true to itself as I could and forged on.

Do you have a press kit and what do you include in it? Does this press kit appear online and, if so, can you provide a link to where we can see it?

Answer: You can find out more about me and the book on my website, www.georgebishopjr.com.



Have you either spoken to groups of people about your book or appeared on radio or TV? What are your upcoming plans for doing so?

Answer: Random House has done a terrific job of helping to set up readings for me during the first month of the book’s release. I’ll visit bookstores in Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Georgia. A few appearances on radio and TV, too. I’m looking forward to it.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

Answer: Marly Rusoff, the best agent in the world.

Did you, your agent or publisher prepare a media blitz before the book came out and would you like to tell us about it?

Answer: Random House sent advance reader copies to different blogsites, which seems like a really good idea. And fortunately, most of those readers liked the book.

Do you plan subsequent books?

Answer: Yes, many. Right now I’m working on my next novel, a story that focuses more on a father-son relationship.

Thank you for your interview, George. Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

Answer: You’re very welcome. You can find out more about me and the book at www.georgebishopjr.com. You can buy the book at your local bookstore, or at any of these online sites:

http://amazon.com
http://www.barnesandnoble.com
http://www.powells.com
http://www.borders.com
http://www.indiebound.org
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