Award-winning author discusses new book

By: 

Lifestyle Reporter

Award-winning novelist Ben Fountain read and signed copies of his new book, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, at Texas State’s Wittliff Collection on April 7.

Fountain, University Endowed Chair in Creative Writing, said BBC named the novel as one of the 12 best books of the 21st century. The novel earned the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in 2012.

In a short Q&A, Fountain was asked about the research method he used for his characters. He must immerse himself in his notes in order to develop the storyline.

“I bury myself in it,” Fountain said. “I get totally confused. I forget why I got into it in the first place, and at a certain point I decide to write my way out of it.”

During the Q&A, Fountain joked his first draft is known as “creative failing.”

“I’m trying to create my problem,” Fountain said. “I suppose what I’m looking for is some kind of power to reveal certain things to me.”

Ramiro Hinojosa, a first-year student in the MFA creative writing program, said the Q&A offered participants the opportunity to build a personal connection with the author.

Hinojosa said Fountain started teaching fiction at the university in Fall 2014.

Anabel Graff and Jane Hawley, MFA seniors and students of Fountain, said his stories focus on themes including politics, American culture, social justice, media and war.

“We are really lucky to have him,” Graff said. “He is a really generous writer and an even more generous teacher.”

Hawley said Fountain uses literature in the classroom to showcase other cultures.

“In his classes he often quotes the poet as (a way) to say literature is the news that stays the news,” Hawley said. “Fiction is important for seeing the world in a deeper, more meaningful way.”

Graff said Fountain expects his students to be ethically sound in every aspect of their lives. 

“Ben really believes that it is the writer’s to role to be the moral compass of the world,” Graff said. “(He) deeply believes that to become a writer is to feel a great burden and express truth and beauty.”

Fountain said he hopes individuals who read his books and take the classes gain the ability to understand the universe in a new way.

“I want my readers to have a new appreciation for the world around us,” Fountain said. “To have clarity of vision, clarity of thought and skepticism toward authority.”

Fountain read a selection from his new novel, titled Jacmel Wreck, which is based on his travels to Haiti.

The story takes place in 1991 Jacmel, Haiti, and follows the experiences of CIA officer Audrey O’Donnell.

“One of the great things about doing this is you can follow your interests wherever it leads,” Fountain said. “I realized what I was interested in tended to involve power and race and the conversion of history in the present day.”