H.W. Brands, who holds the Jack S. Blanton Sr. Chair in History at the University of Texas at Austin, is a master storyteller. But instead of creating worlds of his own, Brands introduces readers to America’s past in a way that engages as it educates. One of the best historians in the nation, his narrative biographies on Benjamin Franklin and FDR were both finalists for The Pulitzer Prize. His narrative style is conversational, yet refined in a way few are able to match.
When did you first realize you were a storyteller?
When I became teacher. I first taught high school math, and I found that my stories about math hooked my students on the subject. As I segued to history, I kept telling stories. Still am.
What do you love about the writing process?
The only part I don't like is reading page proofs. At that point the scope for revising is severely limited. I find myself wishing I could make changes my editors won't allow, for cost reasons. Everything else I like.
What is the hardest part of being a writer?
I haven't found any hard parts yet. See above. If it was hard, I wouldn't do it.
Where do you find your inspiration?
The reason I write history is that you couldn't make this stuff up. No one would believe you. History is an inexhaustible supply of tales about the comedy and tragedy of being human.
What are you working on right now?
My book Heirs of the Founders will be published in November. My next book is a history of the American West, currently called Dreams of El Dorado. To be published in the fall of 2019.
To find out more about Brands and what he is working on next, check out his website.
I've been writing stories and taking photos since I was old enough to hold a pencil and stand behind a tripod.