Tom Piccirilli shares a few words on ‘The Last Kind Words’

Ernest Hemingway is quoted as saying, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” I think of Tom Piccirilli every time I see that quote. Piccirilli’s work is as honest, raw and emotional as anything you’ll find on the shelves. It’s also as beautifully written as anything out there, and I’ve always felt that he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves.
Hopefully that’s all about to change. His new novel, The Last Kind Words, is due from Bantam on June 12, and early reviews are liberally tossing around words like “perfect,” “stunning,” and “superb.” Tom’s doing a blog tour leading up to publication, and I’m honored that he’s stopping by October Country for a visit.
I’m intrigued by the idea that the characters in The Last Kind Words are all named after dog breeds. It’s one of those little details that few writers can pull off – or could even think of in the first place. Where does the quirky stuff like that come from?

Dogs are iconic symbols for me. A dog alone in the yard, howling at night, running wild in the street. A mad dog, a bad dog, a good dog. Symbolically they just seem to dovetail perfectly when discussing a family whose idiosyncratic members are always clashing. They attack, they bark, they bite, they offer company and unconditional love.

Writing is such an intensely personal act for you. Have you ever written anything that you were afraid to let your friends and family read – things that might cause them to worry about you, or that they might recognize and be upset about? If so, what did you do in those situations?

I try to get as close to blood and bone as I can when dealing with certain familial and personal issues/emotions. What’s the point of writing about something and lying about it? Or holding back? Or only going half as deep as you really feel? If I’m going to go deep then I’m going to present whatever I find there the way that it is, whether that’s ugly or embarrassing or painful. I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten to close to a deep nerve for anyone else in my circle. As I’ve pointed out before, almost nobody I might write about reads my stuff. And since they won’t read this either, they still don’t know I’m writing about them or my relationships with them.

If you had to pick one book right now to represent who you are as an author, which one would it be, and why?

Well, since we’re talking who I am now, what I am now, what I think and feel now, then it would have to be The Last Kind Words. It contains the themes and substance and elements that interest me the most at the moment, that have the most powerful draw, the most powerful effect. Most of my work contain similar, if not the same, ingredients, but the stew’s always cooking and changing. An extra dash of salt here or there, a new gravy, a new garnish.

You’ve often said that you didn’t choose writing – writing chose you. Do you wish something else had chosen you instead? If so, what?

Monarchism. I’d like to rule the nation with an iron hand.

Let’s say that The Last Kind Words becomes the breakout hit that you deserve, and Hollywood comes calling. To me, the important thing about a Tom Piccirilli movie wouldn’t be the cast, it would be the screenwriter and director adapting the work. Who do you think could capture your unique sensibilities and voice and bring a faithful adaptation to the screen?

If I could choose anyone I think I’d choose (David) Fincher. The man’s a genius, especially of dark mood and style. His crime films are among the most effective ever. Seven and Zodiac are two personal favorites, and you could probably say Fight Club fit under the umbrella of “crime,” at least partially. But I wouldn’t kick any Hollywood gun off my futon for eating crackers.


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