Interview with Chad Hautmann

Interview by Magdalena Ball

Magdalena: Tell me the Penguin story.

Chad: How BILLIE’S GHOST ended up with Penguin is pure Zen. It had been published by VanMeter, a very small press, and promoted within a small-press budget. In other words, the book didn’t make very big waves. I was content with that and hard at work on another novel. But it seems an employee named Donna Price at Hawley-Cooke Bookstore in Louisville liked the book enough to recommend it to a Penguin sales rep when he stopped in. He liked it also and gave it to an editor at Penguin Group who passed it to Trena Keating at Plume, and she decided to publish it. Strange how things happen sometimes. Just when you quit trying so hard, you succeed–at least in this case.

Magdalena: Now that you’ve experienced both a large and small publisher, tell me about some of the differences.

Chad: The biggest difference between a large and small press, again, is budget. It seems obvious, but a large press will reach far more readers, and everyone at Penguin has been great.

Magdalena: Were you worried that your family might read autobiography into the fiction?

Chad: Oh, yeah, you’re right. Family, friends, anyone who thinks she knows something about you. Naturally a writer draws from experience–his own and what he’s witnessed–but the greatest joy in writing fiction is that you get to make things up. Writing autobiography seems far more difficult to me than writing a novel. But I do it too: I look for parallels between an author’s life and her work. I wonder why we do that?

Magdalena: Tell me a little bit about Those Things Worth Saving. Is that still
the title? What direction is the novel moving in? Do you have a time limit?

Chad: My next novel is called MAGIC AND GRACE, and I’m starting to notice themes emerging that are much like BILLIE’S GHOST–namely, living in the moment, the fragility of life, enjoying to the fullest the simple, beautiful things we often ignore while we’re worrying about something else. ‘Cause it’s all over pretty damned quickly, isn’t it?

Magdalena: You’ve said that, in some ways, writing a second novel is more
difficult than writing the first. Tell me more about that.

Chad: Man, you can say that again. I’ve got two little girls now whom I didn’t have while working on BILLIE, so I’ve got to squeeze in the writing time when I can–no more procrastinating, taking a walk, piddling around while getting in the “mood.” But a writer with kids is hardly unique. Beyond that, it is a different feeling now knowing that editors are almost certainly going to read, and take seriously, what you’re writing. It’s a bit more pressure in that way. But also, it’s a great relief to have one book under your belt and to realize that you’re NOT completely wasting your time, as many people seem eager to tell you when you’re working on your first.

Magdalena: So you have a kind of overall set of literary goals?

Chad: No, I have no literary goals other than to write the best books I’m capable of writing. That’s hard enough for me. Plus, goals are so un-Zenlike, no?

Magdalena: What publicity have you been doing for Billie’s Ghost — anything to coincide with the Penguin release?

Chad: A lot of the publicity is still in the works. There are book-signings, talks, an appearance at the Miami Book Fair, interviews like this one. I’m relatively new at this, but I think the promotion snowballs as the book gets more popular. Ironic.

Magdalena: What’s the biggest challenge facing you as a full time writer?

Chad: The biggest challenge is paying for health insurance! It’s much more challenging to be a good parent than a writer, I think. And much more important, surely.

Magdalena: Do you think that the US government could do more to support the arts?

Chad: The current administration (Bush) could certainly be more interested in the arts. In fact, they are probably anti-arts, anti-intellectual, and anti- a lot of other worthwhile things. Don’t get me started…. Let’s hope we soon have a new president who enjoys thinking.

Magdalena: Do you have any other projects on the burner, pet projects, pet
peeves, bugbears or other information you would like to talk about?

Chad: No. Despite the rant above, I love my life.