Smiley calls Some Luck an “old person’s way of writing a novel” – with the years progressing evenly, as “happy and tragic events came and went”.
Q: A lot has happened since you started writing. Has it affected your writing or could you have written the same book 20 years ago?
A: I think so. I came up with this idea 5 years ago, decided on a setting, settled on Walter and Rosanna, gave the kids personalities, and set them on their way. The book is mostly made up of history and gossip.
Q: A lot of your books have an agricultural motif. Have you lived on a farm?
A: No, but I lived in Ames – what’s the difference? I moved to Iowa City at age 22. I was interested in farming, the ecology of farming in our lifetime. If I had gone to UVA, I would have gone down another path.
Q: You used to teach. When you taught, did it affect your writing, and did your writing affect your teaching?
A: Yes. Once I was writing a story, and teaching undergrads, and I was giving tips for storywriting and in the process came up with how to move on in the story.
Q: Do you write thinking about how the book will sound out loud? Do you ever wish you’d changed a word?
A: Yes, in fact I did tonight during my reading.
Q: A Thousand Acres had King Lear as its background. Did anything inspire Some Luck?
A: No, I just wanted to fill this title: A Hundred Years. This was much more free form. I knew where I was headed. I knew Frank would go to war and the farm would change and someone would stay on the farm. It had boundaries, but not structure like King Lear.
Q: Some Luck is the first of a trilogy. Are the other two books finished?
A: Yes. I need to fiddle with the last 5 years.
Q: Which books influenced you as a girl? Little House on the Prairie?
A: That series was read to me as a kid. The books that had the most influence on me were the ones I read as a 13-14 year old: Giants in the Earth, David Copperfield, The Web of Life.