Marissa Bell Toffoli

Interview With Writer Brady Udall

In books, fiction, writing on May 27, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Brady Udall

Brady Udall. Photo by Hector Udall.

An introduction to the author of The Lonely Polygamist, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, and Letting Loose the Hounds. Brady Udall talks about himself and the writing life. The Lonely Polygamist (WW Norton & Company) is Udall’s most recent novel.

Quick Facts on Brady Udall

  • Udall’s website
  • Home: Boise, Idaho
  • Comfort food: Cheez-It crackers
  • Top five reads: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, Ray by Barry Hannah, The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor, American Ground Zero by Carole Gallagher
  • Current reads: young adult novels

What are you working on now?

Well, I’m going to attempt to write a young adult novel or a children’s novel. I’m not sure exactly what it will be, but it has a kid in it.

Who do you picture as the ideal reader of your work?

I haven’t thought about that exactly. I know the ideal reader for my work is not a critic or an academic. I think it’s someone who is a voracious reader, who reads for the emotional experience of a book.

Where and when do you prefer to write?

I have a refurbished garage in my backyard. That’s where I write from about midnight to 4am or 5am. It’s been that way for years and years.

It’s been said writers can do their work from any place, where would you most want to live and write?

Well, I think it’s Prague, the home of Franz Kafka. We [Udall’s family] are actually going to live there for four or five months, and we’ll see if it works. We’ve never been there before, but I sort of have my own notion of the place. I really want my kids to have the experience as well.

What do you listen to when you work?

For long periods I won’t be able to listen to anything, and then I will. I listen to classical music or music that’s fairly quiet, folk music, or maybe indie rock. There can’t be too much of a beat to it.

Do you have a personal philosophy for how and why you write?

Fiction, at its core, is an emotional art. That’s what it does best. I write for the emotional experience of it, for me as the writer and for the reader. William Faulkner talked about the “human heart in conflict with itself” in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech—that’s what I am trying to get at when I write.

Are there any writers who have strongly influenced your work?

There are a lot. Mark Twain for his very American voice. Western writer Rick Bass, and especially his collection of short stories, made me understand what makes a good story. Then there is Barry Hannah, whose book Ray is a favorite of mine.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

It’s corny, but it’s the best advice I know: Don’t worry what your mother, your classmate, your neighbor, your spouse, or anyone else thinks about what you write. Write whatever compels you, whatever you find meaningful.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given as a writer?

Pay attention to your sentences, to the language, because it’s the only thing you have. Words are all we have, if they don’t come first everything else will suffer.

What’s an unusual question you’ve been asked about your writing?

Why do my books have so many sex scenes? I didn’t really think I had a lot of sex scenes in my books.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

I like watching TV; I love Breaking Bad. I love being outside, sports, mountain biking, playing basketball, anything physical.

About Brady Udall

Brady Udall is the author of Letting Loose the Hounds, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, and the newly released The Lonely Polygamist. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, Playboy, GQ and Esquire, and his stories and essays have been featured on National Public Radio’s This American Life. He teaches in the MFA program at Boise State University.

(Interview first published on in May 2010.)

[Toffoli, Marissa B. “Interview With Writer Brady Udall.” Words With Writers (2010),]

The Lonely Polygamist

The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall (WW Norton & Co, 2010).

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