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Best Of The Book Nook: Heartwood, by James Lee Burke


I have interviewed James Lee Burke more times than any other author. He is now in his early eighties and he is just as productive as he ever was. He put out another novel last January and we had him back on the program. He has another one coming out in January, 2019 and I am hoping he'll want to do an interview for that book, too.

He stopped going on book tours many years ago. Back in 1999 when he visited the program to discuss his novel "Heartwood" he was coming through Dayton on book tour. Burke avoids airplanes. Back in those days he would travel by automobile with his wife Pearl and they would drive all over the USA. After he decided to stop doing book tours he confessed his surprise that his book sales seem to have increased since he had stopped touring. He chuckled about that. The whole point of a book tour is to enhance an author's profile and to increase book sales. He found amusement in the fact that it seemed his readers were rewarding him for curtailing his book tours.

I recorded this interview on a cassette tape and had not listened to it since. I remembered the conversation-Jim made some very revealing statements about his writing process. He talked about the way he works out the arcs of his story lines while he's asleep. His nocturnal dreams are an essential part of his creative process. He keeps a big pad of legal paper by his bedside to jot down the ideas and dialogue he has just been dreaming about.

The last time I interviewed him I had called him on the phone in Montana right before Christmas, 2017. He had agreed to record an interview before the holidays and his publication date. During that conversation I ran down the list of books that we had discussed over the years. I did not mention "Heartwood" which was the book we had discussed in 1999. I have had so many interviews with Jim that I had forgotten about doing one for this book!

This is a great interview. When you hear James Lee Burke laughing during this interview from 20 years ago you'll be hard pressed not to laugh along with him. His laughter is infectious and thoroughly genuine. I hope you enjoy listening to Jim as much as I did back in 1999.

The Book Nook on WYSO is presented by the Greene County Public Library with additional support from Washington-Centerville Public Library,  Clark County Public LibraryDayton Metro LibraryWright Memorial Public Library, and Microsun Lamps.

Vick Mickunas introduced the Book Nook author interview program for WYSO in 1994. Over the years he has produced more than 1500 interviews with writers, musicians, poets, politicians, and celebrities. Listen to the Book Nook with Vick Mickunas for intimate conversations about books with the writers who create them. Vick Mickunas reviews books for the Dayton Daily News and the Springfield News Sun.