Tom Spanbauer

I was very fortunate one evening to be invited to Tom's house where he hosts a community of writers every week. It was inspiring to me to be among these driven storytellers. Fresh from finishing a new novel, Tom answered a few questions I had.

What inspires you?

There's a lot that inspires me. Jack Gilbert's poetry, Phillip Levine's poetry, Michele Ndegeocello's music, Jane Siberry's music. Any real truth spoken clearly. That rush of rawness that takes your breath away. Many movies. Most recently, The Mother, The Maid, The Gold Door, Un Homme de sa Vie, Be With Me, The Secret of the Grain, The Fall. Francis Bacon's paintings. My therapist. My lover. Dear old friends. Sunlight.

How and when did you to become a writer?

In the eighth grade I won a writing contest. Writing has always been my friend. It was my only accompaniment as a child. In High School and in college, I loved books for their physical beauty and for the places they could take me. My sexuality is so related to books, I wouldn't know how to tell them apart. But really, it was when I started my classes at Columbia that I started taking myself seriously as a writer.

How do you come up with your story ideas?

Many of my story ideas come from my own experience. I teach a class in Dangerous Writing and in the class I encourage people to go to the sad, sore, secret places in themselves and write about what's in these places. For me, it's been issues of sexuality, identity, breaking down old notions I learned from the Catholic Church and my parents, my sister, Idaho, my working class roots.

What can you tell us about the novel you just completed?

My latest novel (working title: I Loved You More) is about a love triangle between two men and a woman and takes places over twenty years. It takes place in New York in the eighties, Idaho in the eighties, Key West in the seventies, and Portland Oregon in the present day.

What is your top advice for other writers?

My advice for other writers is to keep at it. Try not to follow the rules. Establishing your own voice takes a lot of deconstruction of what we've learned as acceptable writing. Be fierce. Be truthful. Say the scariest thing.


  1. Tom,
    Great interview! I absolutely love your books. In high school, you were my creative writing teacher and told me you'd see me in print some day.

    After life got in the way for a while, I finally got back to writing. I have 5 novels out now, with a sixth on the way and contracted for at least two more.

    I can't tell you how much your complete faith in an awkward teenage girl meant to me. You were one of the motivating factors of my life.

    Thanks so very much!

  2. Tom can be contacted at