Episode 39: The art of writing in the rain with Garth Stein
Even Garth Stein cries over his books.
“The Art of Racing in the Rain” is well-known to readers and movie-goers as a tearjerker. Stein says he rented space at a Seattle pizza restaurant when he was writing the book. “I’d get to an emotional part and be crying,” Stein says. “People would be like, ‘What’s wrong with that guy?’
Although published in 2008, Stein says the recent release of the movie with Kevin Costner giving voice to the dog character, Enzo, catapulted the book to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. “When that happened, I told my kids they had to call me ‘Dad, Numero Uno,’” Stein says, adding that his demand was summarily ignored.
Co-hosts Kurt Batdorf and Jim Hills get behind the wheel in this episode for a drive with Stein through his experiences with cars, racing and writing novels with strong Pacific Northwest and Alaskan settings. Stein also talks a bit about two upcoming releases, a new novel titled, “A Couple of Old Birds” and a graphic novel involving mutant goat people titled, “The Cloven.”
While not autobiographical, Stein says all of his novels include some of himself.
Stein says he began with screenwriting as a career target, but found he had a “bizarre allergic reaction to it.”
Stein then spent nearly 10 years making documentary films. The foray into documentaries helped, Stein says, because his feeling was, “At age 25, I’m not really, as a writer or a person, mature enough to have anything to say.”
He eventually came back to books with his first novel “Raven Stole the Moon,” at age 32. An early love for theater also prompted him to write a play for his high school alma mater, Shorewood High School in Shoreline, Wash., just north of Seattle.
So where did the car racing in “The Art of Racing in the Rain” come in?
Stein and his family had been living in New York for years when they decided to move back to Seattle. He got involved in racing Mazda Miata cars (something Stein and Batdorf have in common).
Stein says it was fun, but became a pull away from his family. He had decided to quit racing, would sell his car, but entered one last race. That race ended for him, he says, “Going backward, 100 miles an hour into a Jersey barrier.
“We don’t necessarily recognize our own situation when we’re in it,” Stein says. “If I’d had clarity, I probably would’ve said, ‘You know, today’s not a good day to race.’”
Episode length: 59:39
- Garth’s official bio
- The Art of Racing in the Rain
- A Sudden Light
- How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets
- Raven Stole the Moon
- Sports Car Club of America
- Spec Miata
- Granite Curling Club
Kurt Batdorf is a Communications Specialist for Sno-Isle Libraries. Kurt brings years of journalism experience and perspective to his work, along with an array of interesting life opportunities including barging a house from Seattle to Mount Vernon and an inveterate love for Mazda Miata cars (Miata = Miata Is Always the Answer).
Jim Hills is the library district’s Assistant Communications Director, Communications & Marketing. Jim is a storyteller who claims to still have some ink in his veins from familial connections with, and previous-career infusions from, the newspaper biz.
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