I've posted a couple of articles regarding Dave Boling's book "Guernica", well, this is a chance to learn about the author of the book thanks to an article published by Seattle Pi:
'Guernica' puts sports columnist Dave Boling in the international spotlight
Last updated October 20, 2008 8:53 p.m. PT
By JOHN MARSHALL
P-I BOOK CRITIC
Forget the quiet writer's garret. Dave Boling's powerful debut novel was written in hotel rooms, on airplanes and in crowded concourse waiting areas, often when its author was covering sports events.
"I think I wrote half the novel at Gate C21 during layovers at O'Hare Airport in Chicago," Boling said.
The novel's unlikely gestation is hardly the only thing that distinguishes it.
The usual debut novel has the author's personal experience thinly disguised through altered dates, places and names. Boling's debut could have reflected his dozen years as a sports columnist at Tacoma's News-Tribune, or playing center on the University of Louisville football team.
His goal was grander. He focused on an infamous event in 20th-century history -- the bombing of a Basque village during the Spanish Civil War, a slaughter of civilians remembered mainly for inspiring one of Pablo Picasso's most celebrated paintings.
Boling's "Guernica" (Bloomsbury, 361 pages, $26) is an engrossing, dramatic family saga filled with engaging characters and resonant details of rural Spanish life. The fierce pride and independence of the Basque people is captured in its pages, as are their cultural traditions.
To the author's amazement, "Guernica" is on its way to becoming an international sensation. Already a best-seller in Spain, where Boling did a recent book tour, the book is being published in 11 countries, with a British edition coming in February.
Boling's visibility as a novelist in the U.S. is sure to get a boost in November when "Guernica" becomes one of 12 titles in the "Discover Great New Writers" program at every Barnes & Noble store across the country.
Boling's advance is reported to be in the "high six figures," but don't expect the down-to-earth debut novelist from Federal Way to leave newspaper work soon.
"I wouldn't say I could leave my day job -- with agents and taxes, I may only see dimes on (advance) dollars," he related. "I want to keep writing fiction and sports. This is the new challenge for me, and I like it."
Several factors persuaded Boling to consider writing a novel back in 2005. The newspaper business was starting to founder and he worried he "needed to start hedging my bets."
After all, Boling went into journalism on a whim when he was an unemployed logger in Idaho. The newspaper in Coeur d'Alene was advertising for a sportswriter.
"I'll bet I could do that," he thought.
He talked his way into the job, in part because he could be a real asset in the paper's upcoming touch football game against the local police.
Boling's venture into fiction was inspired by two writers from the Spokesman-Review in Spokane who made the transition to novels: Jess Walter of Spokane, whose "The Zero" was a finalist for the National Book Award, and Jim Lynch of Olympia, whose "The Highest Tide" earned many raves.
Boling knew what story his novel would tell. He had met a woman of Basque descent at the University of Idaho and they soon married. Their decades together with two children provided an immersion in Basque culture and history, including the 1937 bombing of Guernica.
It had been on Boling's mind ever since 9/11. Guernica had been one of the most prominent examples of the slaughter of innocent civilians in the 20th century, yet Boling saw no mention of this parallel in the coverage of the 2001 attack. He hoped a novel could bring renewed attention to Guernica.
Boling also had definite ideas about the characters he wanted: "We seem to be getting too far away from characters like Atticus Finch in 'To Kill A Mockingbird,' characters of high ideals and morals," he said. "I wanted to create characters I could look up to."
Once Boling started to write, he found that the characters fueled the novel's progress. He had no real plot outline. He built toward the daylong attack by German air force planes, which dropped 100,000 pounds of bombs on Guernica (just 15 pages in the novel), then included some years of its aftermath. Historical research provided crucial details, as did family experiences and past trips to Spain.
Finding the time
Carving out time to write, the bane of many writers, was never a problem for Boling. Road trips covering Seattle sports teams provided ample opportunities. When other sportswriters got together for a post-game libation, Boling returned to his room to write. He found he could work on the novel anywhere.
"Sportswriters operate under extreme conditions, with bands playing and Laker Girls dancing," he explained. "You have no choice but to focus on your computer and make your story happen as best you can. You develop a capacity to focus and I transferred that to fiction writing."
"When I got on a plane, I would get my laptop out and start to work. I would immediately get so involved in the novel's story that I could literally hear the people talking and I could smell their food and visualize the hills where they lived. It was almost like self-hypnosis. The next thing I knew, there'd be an anouncement to 'return seatbacks to the upright position.' "
Boling lived up to his reputation as a prodigious, fast writer, producing a manuscript of 600 pages in 18 months while also writing three or four sports columns every week.
Among the first to read the novel were Walter and Lynch, who offered advice on technical matters such as voice and scene. Both were much impressed.
Lynch recalled, "What surprised me was that Dave had not gone through the usual training wheels of becoming a fiction writer -- short stories and learning the craft and then getting 70 pages into a novel and losing faith. Dave had such great passion for the story he wanted to tell. He is fearless by nature."
Lynch recommended that Boling send the manuscript to his New York literary agent, Kimberly Witherspoon of InkWell Management. She immediately sensed it was "an extraordinary book" with commercial potential, both in America and abroad, but she had to deliver depressing news to the author: The manuscript was way too long.
Boling remembers what happened next: "Kim said she wanted to market 'Guernica' at the Frankfurt International Book Fair but that was only a few days away. Here's where my sportswriter training came in. I cut 180 pages of the manuscript over that weekend and covered a football game, too. Out went entire characters, history and culture and politics; I kept it close to the story of one family -- this is a story of relationships, a family love story; the history is secondary."
Witherspoon's mission to Frankfurt met with instant success. First to purchase Boling's novel was prestigious Picador in Great Britain. Editor Charlotte Greig only needed to read 50 pages to know she wanted to publish Boling's book. She then called her publisher in Frankfurt, urging him to make an offer.
"I haven't read a word of it," he said.
Greig replied, "Trust me on this: It is exceptional!"
In a little over a month, Boling went from undiscovered writer with a manuscript to a writer with a book bought by presses around the globe. Boling did not know then that this is warp speed in a business that often advances glacially.
Truly a dream
Boling's new life as a hardback writer has unfolded in what he calls "pinch-me moments."
His Spanish book tour had many. Boling went with trepidation, expecting skepticism for a novel by a U.S. sportswriter about the bombing of Guernica.
Several Spaniards told him, "We were ready to tear this book apart, but it rang true." That was a huge relief for Boling, who had had the book checked for accuracy by Spanish and Basque experts in the States.
Another memorable moment came on the day of publication. He was at a local Barnes & Noble when a woman approached. He recommended the book to her, which prompted her to ask, "Did you read it?"
"No, I wrote it."
She agreed to buy a copy, but added: "I want something profound inscribed. Write what you learned from this experience."
Boling was stumped. Then he thought: "Supposedly, you just can't do this -- start writing fiction at age 53 and have a novel that sells like this. I worked my ass off, had a lot of luck and help from people but it did happen."
So Boling wrote in her book: "Nothing is impossible."
But the most powerful moments came at two book readings. In Boise, he read with his son, Jake, from the University of Idaho, in the crowd. In Spain, he did a reading attended by his daughter, Laurel, who is teaching English in Madrid.
"I looked up from my reading and made eye contact with my kids," Boling recalls, "and there was this instant connection, a warm, comforting feeling.
"It was like when my kids were in bed and I was reading them a nighttime story. I could sense that both of them were proud of me -- and if you can make your kids proud of you, there is no greater reward. All of the money, all the reviews, all the attention are secondary to that."
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