Robert Moulthrop is an amazingly dynamic, warm and disarmingly passionate writer and playwright based out of NYC. His most current collection of short stories, To Tell You the Truth, is available in bookstores and online now. It was pleasure to speak with him over the phone from his NYC home. You can find both him and his work here.
Q: What are you currently working on?
Actually, today I am working on a rewrite of a story that is going into my second collection of short stories: Elvis’s Dog…Moonbeam. When my editor looked at this story, “Warm Air, A Tinge of Ice,” she said it could do with some trims. It’s a story about fifteen years old, and not published. Never printed. It’s a wonderful realization: everything can get shorter in the service of art. I am really pleased that not only have I cut about 25% but I have improved the story, which is very gratifying. It takes an external person I trust to say, “ why don’t you think about this ”?
Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?
My first book of short stories called To Tell You the Truth has copped some very nice reviews from Kirkus and Clarion (Syndicate Review) and of course, sales could always stand to improve. I’ve written about 40 short stories; 20 have been published. It’s time to put them out again in a format that is readily accessible. I think short stories are really wonderful – especially in this age when people like things that are entertaining and short.
Q: Do you have any other projects you would like to tell us about?
Two other things I’m working on at the moment: I’m preparing my second collection of short stories for publication this spring. The title is Elvis’s Dog…Moonbeam, and other stories. I’m also working on a new section of my web site—On Prisons and Prisoners—that features experiences from those of us out in the free world, and writings by men serving sentences of Life Without Parole.
Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who has had an impact on you and your work?
I have to say Alice Munro, Philip Roth and the playwright Mike Bartlett.
Q: What keeps you motivated as an artist?
The fact that I can do this and therefore should. It’s important for those of us who have the talent and the ability and who feel compelled to write…to write. As I say, there is no telling where the truth is going to touch down and move someone. I think that’s very important.
Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?
The first time I saw a play of mine on stage. Actually before it was on stage. When I heard the actors that had been cast do a table-read. As a playwright…the play was in my head and now it’s out there – and god bless the actors, they are making this live and breathe and people are going to see this and be taken in by the ability of these actors into a life they wouldn’t otherwise see.
Q: What is one accomplishment are you most proud of?
My children. I have three wonderful sons and seven wonderful grandchildren. It makes me very happy.
Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?
Watching my plays being produced all over the country.
Q. What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?
I just try to write every day. As a writer that’s what I do. There are a tremendous number of distractions and it’s very clear to me that I must put down words. One word to two words to 25 words. Even though the well may feel as if it is running dry I know it isn’t.
Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?
Q: What is your favorite piece of art?
Georges Braque’s, Man with Guitar. It’s hanging in MoMA in NYC, right next to Picasso’s pictures of the same thing. They worked on them together and ran in between each other’s studios. The Braque has always spoken to me. Anything by Matisse
Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?
Edward Hopper, who said, “ What I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house”.
Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?
Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?
Q: What is your guilty pleasure?
(Laughs) I have several books that I have reread more than I should. One is J. B. Priestley’s The Good Companions, the other Josephine Tey’s, The Franchise Affair It’s based on a kidnapping case. It’s very clever and warm. The characters are very wonderful. It’s nice to visit.
Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?
Q: Where would you most like to live?
Where I live now. What, are you kidding? NYC! It’s a blessing. It’s especially a blessing for a writer because if you’re a writer you sit where people gather- if people knew that you were a writer they wouldn’t speak – but they don’t know and they do speak.
Q: What is your idea of success?
Having plays produced.
Q: What is your idea of happiness?
Q: Final thoughts?
Everybody who feels that they have something to say should take the time to go ahead and say it because the Universe is made of moments with the letters YNK, You Never Know.