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Updated: Thursday, 07 Jun 2012, 5:15 PM CDT
Published : Thursday, 07 Jun 2012, 5:15 PM CDT
POINT CLEAR, Ala. (WALA) - LOVE FOR WRITING
Winston Groom said he when he started attending the University of Alabama he wanted to be a lawyer like his dad, but while there, quickly developed a love for writing.
Groom recently shared about his early writing career, and when he decided to write novels including the one that catapulted its main character Forrest Gump to worldwide recognition.
"I enjoy it. I mean, I can't think of anything more fun than (writing.) I mean, it beats any other kind of work that I know. But it is; its’ hard. That is a challenge to write a book. I mean, it’s a challenge," said Groom.
CHOOSING A PATH
Groom was in his early 30s and a newspaper reporter at the Washington Star in Washington, D.C. when he made a bold, life changing decision.
"(I asked myself) ‘Am I going to want to do this the rest of my life?’ And the answer that came to me was no. I wanted to write a novel and, I had for a long time.” Groom said.
After deciding writing a novel was his chosen path, Groom resigned from the Washington Star.
“What I considered bold about it was that I told everybody I was going to do it because I was going to write a novel," Groom remembers.
Groom said he knew that if he failed, going back would be embarrassing, and perhaps not even possible. But, he said he didn't want to be a good "old" reporter.
"There were always old guys, very good old reporters. And if you would look in their desk, you would probably find an unfinished novel, manuscript.
He said he didn’t want to be that guy, so he saved some money and made a clean break from the reporting business.
A newspaper friend of his, who was also preparing to write his first novel, invited him to the Hamptons.
"He said ‘Why don't you come up and join me out in the Hamptons? My father's out here.’ It turned out his father was Irwin Shaw, who wrote Rich Man, Poor Man, and The Young Lions, and he was a very famous novelist of the day," Groom added.
The Hamptons was home for several writers who influenced Groom while he was an English major at Alabama.
"James Jones From Here to Eternity, and Kurt Vonnegut's work, and Joe Heller Catch 22 when I got out to the Hamptons they all lived there, they were my friends I had lunch with them every day, that place in those days was really a heaven for a young writer. Those were big influences because it just somehow makes it a little more real when you see the guys who have really done it and to be a part of their conversation even though you were maybe a small part," said Groom.
Groom's said his newspaper experience helped him start writing his first novel.
“I didn't have any writer’s blocks; but it is, it’s hard that is a challenge to write a book,” he recalls.
He said seeing a blank page and trying to decide what comes next is hard.
“You just, somehow, you keep at until you do it right until you're satisfied with it. And by, really the end of that first summer, I had done 100 pages and I had an outline," Groom shared.
His friends provided Groom even more good fortune.
"My dear departed friend, Willie Morris, found an agent. Then he took it, and he sold it almost immediately. And I wound up getting a good advance early on. And that got me off and running,” Grooms said.
Groom's first book, Better Times Than These, was published in 1978. His U.S. Army tour in Vietnam influenced two of his early books.
"I think a war in any young man’s life, if he goes through a war; it’s going to be the seminal experience of his youth. And there's a story there I wanted to tell, and I told it," added Groom.
Groom's third novel, Conversations with the Enemy, was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in 1983.
"Vietnam, it would come back in many ways. It came back obviously in Forrest Gump," Groom said.
Groom's father told him a story about a little mentally challenged boy in Mobile who developed a proficiency at piano playing which led kids to stop teasing and chasing him.
"I thought,’ that’s a nice little story. I think I’ll go home and make some notes.’ And then by midnight that night, I had written the first chapter of Forrest Gump. It just came to me just like that. I’ve never had that happen before, but it wrote it itself. I think I wrote it in about six or eight weeks," recalls Groom.
The movie rights to the book were grabbed early by Warner Brothers, but after several screenplays did not meet the company's approval, production of a Forrest Gump movie never got started. Paramount eventually bought the rights to the book, and they quickly brought "Forrest" to the big screen.
"Everybody was surprised. Even the movie people were surprised. Nobody expected it. I knew it was going to be a big show because there was a huge ad and movie companies don't usually do that. I mean, unless they think they're really on to something. So I thought, ‘Well, this is going to be a big movie.’ But nobody, even the people at Paramount, didn't expect it to do that," said Groom.
The movie made the book a best seller,
with more than a million copies sold.
Groom has written 18 books since he started in the 1970s. Some ideas came to him, others have been suggested.
"You know, it’s no formula. I mean, some just fall in your lap, like the book I did on Alabama football. Well, it occurred to the university, ‘We need somebody to chronicle this story.’ And they came to me and asked me if I would do it. I had a ball doing it. That was the most fun book I ever wrote," adds Groom.
Four Winston Groom books have been released in the last six months including a 25 year anniversary Forrest Gump edition.
Groom said he wants to be remembered for three things with his writings.
"That I brought some kind of pleasure and entertainment and knowledge into a lot of people's lives through my books. And, if my mail is any indication a lot of people like it. Every day, I get letters. And you know, that’s gratifying to know that," said Groom.
Groom's other three newly released books are Shiloh, a civil war history novel, Kearny's March, an american west epic and Ronald Reagan, our 40th President.
He's also working on a new novel, but he said it’s too early to tell us anything about it yet.
Groom said he was also influenced by some of the 1920 american writers like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.