In Dan Kennedy’s debut novel, American Spirit, a 40-something former exec reacts to the implosion of his middle-class life in ways both expected—substance abuse, depression, halfhearted crafting—and utterly original. The plight of this unemployed everyman becomes a springboard for a string of darkly funny (and hilarious) adventures, epic and mundane. Kennedy, host of The Moth podcast, tells us where he does his writing (spoiler alert: it’s all over the place).
I write anywhere I can usually. I’ll write in hotels. I don’t care if it’s a Holiday Inn on the side of the interstate or an amazing splurge on the edge of the Mediterranean, it’s easier to get down to the work of writing in a cage with whatever you have within reach. Somewhere around my apartment I have a bunch of false starts written on notepads from The Grand Hotel in Stockholm, because I had read somewhere that Woody Allen started Annie Hall or something there, so when my travels took me there I checked in, put my case down by the bed, and just wrote anything that rocketed into my oblong head onto stationery and notepads for the next couple of days. I look at writing a little like fishing; if somebody had some luck somewhere, I’ll probably try that spot if I find myself at that part of the river, you know?
It’s not like I’m in hotels a ton on the average year. I might spend 30 nights a year in hotels, so I probably do the majority of my writing at home, at the big table. I just got back from a month or so of travel to promote the new book and do some shows with The Moth, so I’m at home in New York, sitting on the couch, typing this on my phone. I can’t find my laptop. I think I hid it. Someone hid it, anyway. There were guys here doing some painting, so the laptops were hidden away I think. I was told where they’d be but I can’t remember the hiding place now. I’ll write in dressing rooms too, at clubs or theaters. I don’t know. I’ve got tricks. I’m not too precious about it, though. My rituals are a fast rash of tics, mostly whatever addictions are left; Diet Pepsi, sex, tobacco, candy—jesus, that sounded like it was painted on the sign of a hard luck convenience store. I almost always feel defeated by writing though, I have to say. Even after a book comes out, even if I’m reading a good review, I still feel an honest sense of wanting to instantly start again and this time try to do better at it, and do better by it. I haven’t been at it that long though, only seriously trying hard for about twelve years, which maybe sounds like some time, but that’s not a lot of time; that would barely cover your school and residency if you were trying to get good at being a doctor, you know? Two things just occurred to me as I typed that last line:
1. I might be a slow learner.
2. Maybe the guys doing the painting took my laptop.
To be clear, I am not a doctor.