JAMES W. THOMSON
I was a city boy, born and raised on the North Side of Pittsburgh. In my senior year of high school I scored enough touchdowns to catch the eye of college coaches, but I had an inkling I wasn’t destined for football glory and chose to go to Harvard on a scholarship with no athletic requirements. At Harvard I discovered a love for literature, art history and impassioned conversation.
After college I was commissioned as an officer in US Navy and served two tours as navigator of a supply ship operating along the coast of Vietnam.
In 1977 I completed a Ph.D. in American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, then spent a year teaching at the University of Miami. Disillusioned by academia, I joined a start-up company as its second full-time employee and moved my young family to Atlanta. Equitrac Corporation, which sold photocopy control systems to professional firms, was in the right market at the right time. When I left the company thirteen years later, we had over three hundred employees in offices from L.A. to London.
For years I’d harbored a desire to become a writer but had rarely put pen to paper. Then I got a chance to join a workshop led by the great short story writer Andre Dubus, Jr. Among the many things Andre taught us is that all stories are written one sentence at a time. You don’t need to escape to a cabin in the woods to move your story along; you can write the next line while you’re making coffee or sitting in traffic or waiting for one of your children to finish soccer practice. The key is to let the characters catch hold of you, to let them become insistent and never ignore them when they have something to say. Then again, in what might seem like a complete contradiction, I learned that it’s important to find a way to carve out a bit of time every day when you sit at your desk and force yourself to face the blank page.
I have have been writing for more that two decades. My work has earned me a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and several of my stories, including “Mr. Spotless,” which won a national short story contest, have appeared in literary quarterlies. Still, the road to getting a book published was long and frustrating. My manuscripts received hundreds of rejections, and there were several times when an editor said she wanted to accept a book, only to be turned by the editorial committee. Now, thanks to the efforts of my indefatigable agent, Laura Gross, Lies You Wanted to Hear was accepted by Sourcebooks and published in November, 2013. When I got the news about the book, my wife Elizabeth smiled brightly and said, “It’s like you’ve been pregnant for twenty years.”
Lies was chosen as the book of the month for Redbook magazine in December 2013, and featured as a “must read” by People and Marie Claire. It was also one of ten books selected for LibraryReads for November and given a starred review by Shelf Awareness. I hope that my perseverance is an inspiration to other struggling writers, who will also find an audience for their work.
Elizabeth and I live in a Victorian farm house west of Boston. Between us we have five far-flung adult children.