Interview with historical fiction author Eric Bronson

Today’s hot
seat is taken by historical fiction author Eric Bronson and focuses on his
novel, King of Rags.
During his
virtual book tour, Eric will be awarding a lucky winner a set of book thongs. To
be entered for a chance to win, use the
form below.
Eric Bronson teaches philosophy in the Humanities Department
at York University in Toronto. He is the editor of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Philosophy
(Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), Poker and Philosophy (Open Court, 2006), Baseball and
Philosophy (Open Court, 2004)
, and co-editor of The Hobbit and Philosophy
(Wiley-Blackwell, 2012)
, and The
Lord of the Rings and Philosophy (Open Court, 2003)
Welcome, Eric. Please tell us about
your current release.
King of Rags is an historical fiction work on the
ragtime era at the turn of twentieth century America. It is a story about
entertainers vainly hoping to be artists, musicians after more than money, prostitutes,
drunks, and con men all searching for hope in America’s brothels, slums, and
good-timing red-light districts. The book closely follows Scott Joplin, the
king of all ragtime composers, as he desperately writes the music of Civil
Rights fifty years before America was ready to listen.
What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always
been in love with the sad clown, the comedian who peels back the layers of his
own private pain to make children happy. Ragtime entertainers struck this chord
beautifully, and in their syncopated rhythms we find something of our own
desires thwarted by events just out of our control. How do we work through the
everyday frustrations life offers? Ragtime musicians have a compelling answer. Set
your troubles to music. Don’t run away from it. Dance to it.
An excerpt from chapter two:
“It started with his
fingers, just skin on bone and note to note. Then it shot up his wrists,
skittering over the hair on his arms like thousands of Texarkana red ants
stepping out for air. He played the Masters. That is, he started with them. As
the beer went through him, and the smoke from his dangling cigarette seeped out
from his lungs and lifted him lighter, Scott began to play with speed. The
faster Scott played, the more his old life merged into the present. A jolt shot
through his shoulders and Scott heard the sure strumming of his father’s banjo.
Inside his legs, Scott felt a quiver and a smash as a broom crashed against the
floor to the steady time of an old-fashioned church shout-out. For the first
time in his life, Scott was a real entertainer. Whole worlds collided and when
they did, Scott stopped. A pause, here and there, off the beat. A stutter and
start. It was a kind of love, but something deeper. Something older. Older even
than love.”
What exciting story are you working on
I’m just
finishing a book, The Dice Shooters,
a fictional work about craps players hoping beyond hope to come out on top. I
draw on many beautiful characters I met at the tables when I was a dice dealer
in downtown, Las Vegas.
Here is an excerpt from chapter 3:
“A night can move in rhythm and time, like a drop of syrup and a
wash of wine. The dark uneven circles crackle Downtown like soft breath in a
dented horn, a muted melody hardly spent by anybody. The dice shooters are
still there, moping all over the tables. They gawk and they stalk with their
gallows and rope, and they slide, yes they slide to the slow riff of living, to
the sultry stone staccato beat of a worn-out African drum. They slide with
their eyes and they grope in their gums. And every body and every beat are
thrown to the streets like wedding rice or sparkling confetti, tumbling their
way to their private beheadings like a pair of sweaty dice. It’s true what they
say. All of us are on the cusp. Every single one of us. Downtown, the broken
lights turn on. Inside every eye, all the way down, even a broken light turns
When did you first consider yourself a
I’m not
sure I ever did. I think of myself more as a teacher. King of Rags is really a different way of exploring art, freedom,
and courage – themes we discuss in my Modernity classes. Books can reach and
even create a much bigger classroom, one that isn’t bound to time or place.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s
your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find
time to write?
I am a
philosophy professor at York University in Toronto part-time, a writer
part-time, and a daddy full-time. In the real world there isn’t enough time for
writing. Actually, in the Modern age there isn’t really enough time for
anything. All art, like religion or love, can take you away from this world and
outside its time. A child’s cry of laughter or pain brings you right back. Both
worlds enrich the other and add meaning to mine.
What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?
I always
have to read out loud. People take words and feed off them. Sounds and rhythms
are important. Words are little birds. The best ones fly high above the world
and don’t simply fall from the nest in silence.
As a child, what did you want to be
when you grew up?
I always
wanted to be a ship captain. Romantic paintings and poems of storms at sea
always thrilled my imagination. Like Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee”:
“And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea—
In her tomb by the sounding sea.”
Anything additional you want to share
with the readers?

Ideas in
your head are like political prisoners. Set them free. Get them out in the
world. You’ll be amazed at all the trouble they get themselves into.

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Thank you, Eric!

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4 thoughts on “Interview with historical fiction author Eric Bronson

  1. Unknown says:

    Nice interview – a ship captain would've been a fun career. I can just imagine the stories you could have written about that.
    Thanks for sharingl

  2. Eric says:

    Thanks Lisa for helping me get Joplin's story out there. And to clarify for Dee, I have a terrible sense of direction and a weak stomach, poor character traits for Romantic stories or storms at sea…

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