Tim Johnston - A Carpenter Who Builds Houses and Stories: Background information when reading Descent

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by Tim Johnston

Descent by Tim Johnston X
Descent by Tim Johnston
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2015, 384 pages
    Dec 2015, 400 pages

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Tim Johnston - A Carpenter Who Builds Houses and Stories

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Tim JohnstonIn 2007, Tim Johnston's father asked him if he would go to his new house in the Rockies and do the finish work. Johnston made his living as a carpenter at the time, and since 2006 his father had been asking him to do the job. Johnston wasn't writing at the time; he was contemplating, instead, that he might never write again, and so he finally agreed to his father's request. It was in the midst of painting the many rooms of the vast house, wall by wall, that a family popped into his consciousness. As Johnston said – and as many writers have also stated – "If you get a great idea for a story, try like hell to forget it, and if you can't, then go ahead and start writing."

DescentHe couldn't. The family, who would later become the Courtlands, stuck. And the beginning of the novel Descent was born.

Irish GirlTim Johnston is the author of two other books besides Descent (2015): the short story collection Irish Girl (2009) and the young adult novel Never So Green (2002). He was born in Iowa, and has degrees from the University of Iowa and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and teaches in the Creative Writing department at the University of Memphis. His books have received numerous awards, including the O. Henry Prize, the New Letters Award for Writers, and the Gival Press Short Story Award. He was also the Jenny McKean Moore Writer-in-Washington Fellow at The George Washington University.

Never So GreenThe life of a writer is sometimes glamorous, but mostly not. And so, when David Sedaris chose Tim Johnston's Irish Girl to bring on his book tour to recommend, Johnston had wild visions of that glamour. And he decided, as a result, to book his on tour, following in the footsteps of Sedaris. Would Sedaris' hearty endorsement of Irish Girl be a life changer for Johnston? (And having the title story, "Irish Girl," included in the David Sedaris anthology of favorites, Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules?) Thousands of dollars in gas money, hotel rooms, Subway sandwiches and Starbucks coffee later – the answer is a definite no. Glamor has not befallen Johnston. But as Johnston said in a piece he wrote in The Salon, "The true numbers, the numbers that return to me every month in the form of bank statements, are empirical and ridiculous. So I think instead of the people I met in the bookstores of America – not networkers, not tweeters, not the friended, but live human beings, book lovers, honest-to-God readers, a living audience."

Tim Johnston, courtesy of www.timjohnston.com

This "beyond the book article" relates to Descent. It originally ran in January 2015 and has been updated for the January 2015 edition.

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