Author Michael Nyewill be at this year’s Books by the Banks Oct. 20 at Duke Energy Convention Center. Why did you set your book in Cincinnati?
All the Castles Burnedhas a strong autobiographical thread and setting it in a place that I know well made sense for the story I wanted to tell. It’s a novel about class and friendship with a particular Midwestern bent, and I felt that no city better reflected the themes and characters I wanted to explore than Cincinnati.
What special challenges come with setting a book in your hometown?
Though I now live in Columbus, I wrote the bulk of this book several years ago when I was living in Missouri, far removed from Cincinnati. I’ve always found it difficult to set a book in a place where I’m currently living. I think the challenge of writing about my hometown was not overdoing it, not trying to prove in each and every paragraph that I know the city well by name dropping or long digressions on the city’s history.
Did you have to do any research, or did you just rely on your memories?
I believe memories shift and change based on the person I am today, so I don’t trust memory to be an accurate reflection of what actually happened in a given era. I researched a wide range of information about criminal justice, television stations, housing and business development, film and music releases, all in the hope of getting the feel of the 1990s correct. I hope I succeeded.
What impression of Cincinnati do you think you left non-locals with after reading your book?
My hope is that they’ll view Cincinnati as the complex and fascinating city that is, and get a feel for how the different pockets—like Indian Hill or Finneytown or Blue Ash or Over-the-Rhine—vary tremendously.
What are you looking forward to this year at Books by the Banks?
Meeting readers, new and old. I’m still mildly surprised that anyone has read my books, and to get the chance to talk to someone face-to-face who really responded to a book that I wrote by myself in the corner of a coffee shop over the course of four years is really amazing.
Any advice for struggling writers?
Stay true to your vision of your book. In the end, it’s your name on the manuscript, and you’re the only one that needs to be satisfied with the writing. Also, don’t quit. This is my fourth attempt at a novel and the only successful one. Writing and publishing are both long processes, and as much as you can, focus on the scene you’re creating, enjoy it, wonder in it, and make it as good as it can possibly be.
What writer inspired you and why?
There are probably many answers to this question—F. Scott Fitzgerald, Alice Munro, Zadie Smith—but I’ll go with Norton Juster. He wrote a wonderful book called The Phantom Tollbooth, and when I read it as a boy, it was the first book I remember reading that felt like it was written just for me. I guess I wanted to be a writer ever since.
What book(s) are you reading right now?
I just finished Lisa Halliday’s sensational debut, Asymmetry, which I can’t recommend highly enough. I’m also reading Kirsten Chen’s Soy Sauce for Beginners, Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club, and rereading John Cheever: Collected Stories and Other Writings, which I do often.
Michael Nye is the author of the story collection Strategies Against Extinction and the novel All the Castles Burned. He was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. He attended the Ohio State University, where he graduated with a B.A. in English literature, and the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where he earned his M.F.A. in creative writing. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in American Literary Review, Boulevard, Cincinnati Review, Crab Orchard Review, Epoch, Kenyon Review, New South, Normal School, Sou’wester, and South Dakota Review, among many others. His work has been a finalist for the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in fiction and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He lives with his wife in Columbus, Ohio.