Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Q&A with Albert Eisele

Albert Eisele is the author of the new book Northern Lights, Southern Nights: A Memoir of Writing Parents. He is editor-at-large of The Hill newspaper, and has worked in journalism, government, business, and academia for five decades. He is based in the Washington, D.C., area.

Q: Why did you decide to write this memoir about your parents? 

A: I decided to write the book after promising my brother, who had urged me on his deathbed to do so. 

Q: How did you research the book? 

A: I had all of their writings stored in my attic, and it was just sitting there, waiting to be used. 

Q: You describe your parents as coming from very different backgrounds. How did each of them get involved in writing, and how did their respective upbringings affect their writing? 

A: My father was an Iowa farm boy with only an eighth-grade education who had this urge to write, and my mother a well-educated woman from the South, and they met through their writing for a Catholic young people's newspaper in Dubuque, Iowa, when my father criticized one of her columns. I think their respective upbringings shaped their writing and their approach to life. 

Q: How much did your parents' love of writing affect you and your own career choices? 

A: I suppose it was a critical factor although I explored several options previously, including professional baseball and medicine. But I gravitated naturally to writing, first as a reporter and then editor. 

Q: What are you working on now? 

A: I'm trying to finish a biography of Cardinal Cushing of Boston, which I began while a fellow at the Kennedy School of Public Affairs at Harvard in 1982, and updating and revising a dual biography of Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy published in 1972.

Q: Anything else we should know? 

A: That's about all for now, except for [possibly working on] a book about coming to Washington as correspondent for the St. Paul Dispatch & Pioneer Press and Knight-Ridder newspapers in 1965. It's called Confessions of a Jurassic Journalist: Sins Committed and Lessons Learned While Serving a Life Sentence in the Nation's Capital.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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