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AN INTERVIEW WITH DANIEL WOODRELL Daniel Woodrell Daniel Woodrell is the author of six novels, including Under the Bright Lights, Woe to Live On, Musclefor the Wing, The Ones You Do, Give Us a Kiss and most recently Tomato Red, for which he received the PEN Center West Award for the Novel. Woe to Live On grew out of his first published story of the same title, which originally appeared in The Missouri Review. It has since been made into the morion picture Ride With the Devil, directed by Ang Lee and starring Skeet Ulrich, Tobey McGuire and the singer Jewel. His other novels have earned numerous honors and awards as well, with three of them being named to the New York Times Notable Books of the Year list. Born in the Ozarks in 1953, Woodrell was a high school dropout before joining the Marine Corps. After the marines, he worked at several manual labor jobs until eventually receiving his MFA from the University of Iowa. He has currently returned to the area of his family roots and lives in West Plains, Missouri, with his wife, writer Katie Estill. This interview was conducted by Kay Bonetti, Director of the American.Audio Prose Library, in the summer of 1999 in Columbia, Missouri. An Interview with Daniel Woodrell/Kay Bonetti editedfor print by Jo Sapp Interviewer: I see ties in your work both to the Ozarks in Missouri and also a city that sounds suspiciously like St. Charles, Missouri. Are there connections? How much of the geography of St. Bruno is St. Charles? Woodrell: St. Bruno has things in common with several places that actually exist. It's overwhelmingly comprised of fictional aspects, but the general notion of it is influenced by the north side of St. Charles. The geography is similar. The fictional town is much bigger than the actual town. It's as St. Charles was when I left there in 1968. The street that is now the tourist street is where we used to go and get winos to buy booze for us when we were twelve or thirteen. They used to live in the coal bins back there behind those buildings. Interviewer: You grew up there? Woodrell: Yes. I was born in the Ozarks. But we moved to the city for my dad to work, and we lived in St. Charles. Interviewer: Was this part of the post-World War II back-and-forth migration of people from the Ozarks to St. Louis for work? Woodrell: Yes. Ninety-five percent of my family disintegrated between World War II and Korea, in terms of living in the Ozarks. They just all took off—the ones who hadn't already run toward Detroit in the thirties . I'm the only male left down there. Interviewer: So you eventually returned to West Plains to live because it was home? The Missouri Review · 81 Woodrell: Yeah, ifs been the center of home for our family since before the Civil War. When we said "home," that's where we meant. But we didn't often live there. We only spent vacations and holidays there until I was an adult. Interviewer: Was your mother a teacher? Woodrell: No, but she did teach all of us to read before we went to grade school, so I was already a pretty good reader before I ever went off to school. She had kind of a fetish about that. I also was born with various illnesses that kept me bedridden at different times. I just read stacks and stacks of books. My intestines were in a ball and they were not where they were supposed to be, and so were corrupting each other. I couldn't eat at times. Once they discovered what it was, when I was twelve or thirteen, and then did an operation, I became totally healthy. Interviewer: Has that childhood experience had any impact on your sensibility? Woodrell: I may have gotten a little too used to amusing myself. I can be by myself for great long stretches pretty happily. Interviewer: What's it like, living in West Plains and being a writer who's pretty well known all over the country? Is...


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