Tom Hanks Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks

An interview with Tom Hanks

A conversation with Tom Hanks, author of Uncommon Type

Typewriters are in each of your stories. When did you get your ?rst?

In the summer of 1978 I traded in my worthless 1970s typewriter for a Hermes 2000 made in the 1950s. I adapted my experience into the story "These Are the Meditations of My Heart."

What, for you, is the difference between sitting at a typewriter to write and sitting at a computer to write?

A typewriter is for musing. And letters. A computer is for work. And documents.

When did you first start writing?

I've been writing on the record, meaning for pay, attaching my name to a project, and getting a wealth of criticism around the office, since the screenplay for That Thing You Do! in 1995.

What is one book you wish you had written? Why?

Manchester's The Glory and the Dream, as he captured the spine of our modern history from the Bonus March to Vietnam in all its blemishes, hubris, and humanity.

Is there a line in your own book that you're most proud of having written?

I'm very proud of the idiocy and authenticity of this section from "A Junket in the City of Light":
14:50 – 15:00 – Radio interview with TSR-1
15:05 – 15:15 – Radio interview with RTF-3
15:20 – 15:30 – Radio interview with FRT-2

How would you describe your collection of short stories?

The stories are about the odd but undeniable connection shared in the Human Condition – that our lives depend on meeting up with each other.

How would you describe the process of writing it?

One damn thing after another, moments of crazy visions and lagging fingers that can't type fast enough to keep up with the too-fleeting images in my brain. And, pacing around.

What was the best advice you received while writing? From who?

Keep writing. From one E.A. Hanks (a relation). Just keep writing.

How long have you been working on this project?

About three years. One story at a time. Though I wrote "Stay with Us" as an unfilmed screenplay in the 1990s.

How did it all begin?

A few weeks after "Alan Bean Plus Four" ran, the offer came in from Penguin or Random House or Scooby Doo's Book Company, whatever it is called. I was flummoxed by the idea of a collection until I came up with putting a typewriter in every story. Then out they came, over years, from a single notecard with nothing but titles typed on it.

A few of the stories in your collection include reoccurring characters —Hank Fiset, MDash, Steve Wong. Was there anything about these characters in particular that made you keep coming back to them?

I read Three Dot columnists like Herb Caen in the SF Chronicle and played Mike McAlary in Nora Ephron's play. Ernie Pyle was a huge influence when I discovered his stuff in books like Ernie Pyle in London. I wanted to have the four characters like MDash, et al to run through the collection so I'd have contemporary stories in the mix.

Screenplay. Short story. Novel. Which do you prefer to read? Why?

Screenplays are work to read, like blueprints for buildings that are not yet built. Some may never see the light of day. Short stories are like ballgames – they play out in a certain amount of time and are all unpredictable. I don't read novels as much as non-fiction. I dig deep into history, or novels that are set in history, like Amor Towles' A Gentleman in Moscow.

What do you want to write next?

I. Have. No. Idea. Leave me alone!

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

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