GREENFIELD — Pulitzer prize-nominated author Michael Shelden will speak 7 p.m. Monday at the Hancock County Public Library, 900 W. McKenzie Road. Shelden has earned numerous accolades for his biographical studies, including Pulitzer Prize nominations for “Mark Twain: Man in White” and his most recent work, “Melville in Love: The Secret Life of Herman Melville.” As part of the Indiana Humanities’ Novel Conversations speakers program, Shelden will speak on the art of writing biographies.
The Daily Reporter caught up with Shelden ahead of his performance to learn more about his writing process and his interest in biographies.
Q: What is it about Melville, Twain, Orwell and Churchill that attracted you to their life stories?
A: I like their strong characters, their independence and their fearlessness. They all were larger-than-life personalities with extraordinary achievements. Melville wrote the greatest novel of the 19th century (“Moby-Dick”); Orwell wrote the most influential book of the 20th century (“1984”); Twain was the funniest man who ever lived; and Churchill saved Western civilization.
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Q: What is your routine for writing?
A: I work best at night, when things are quiet. My ideal schedule for writing would be from early evening to early morning.
Q: How do you go about researching your biographies?
A: I love working with digital databases of old newspapers and other documents. I also like doing personal interviews and digging through letters in manuscript archives.
Q: How much time — on average — does it take to write a single book?
A: Research can take up to two years, but writing the book can be done in a year or less.
Q: Who are some other authors of biographies that you have been inspired by?
A: I enjoy the biographies of David McCullough especially his book on John Adams. I also like Ron Chernow’s books on Alexander Hamilton and John D. Rockefeller. These works are rich in detail, yet with stories that are a joy to follow.
This program is free and open to the public. Register to attend at hcplibrary.org.