Jeffrey Blount – 2:45 to 3:10 La Rambla Stage
Why do you want to write fiction when nobody cares if you do or if you don’t?
Jeffrey Blount is a multiple award-winning author. His novel, Hating Heidi Foster, won the 2013 Readers’ Favorite Book Award for young adult fiction. His novel, Almost Snow White, is a winner of the USA Book News Award. In recent years, he has put his writing talent to use working on documentary films and interactive projects. He has written scripts for projects in the recently opened Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. He has written scripts for films that are now on display in the Muhammad Ali Center, The Jimmy Carter Center, The Newseum, The New England Patriots Museum, America I Am: The African American Imprint, The Museum at Bethel Woods/Woodstock and others. With these projects came the honor of multiple Cine Golden Eagle Awards, Muse Awards and a Thea Award.
Jeffrey is also an Emmy award-winning television director who recently retired after 34 years of network television experience at NBC News. Over that span, he directed a decade of Meet The Press, helping take that show from a half hour to an hour and from the third rated Sunday morning political program to the top rated show. He directed The Sunday Today show, The Today Show, the Washington portions of NBC Nightly News for over fifteen years and eleven years of The Chris Matthews Show. He contributed to NFL broadcasts and major Washington events, such as State of the Union and rebuttal responses, Presidential addresses, press conferences and election night coverage.
Born and raised in Smithfield, Virginia, he now resides in Washington, DC and is married to Jeanne Meserve, former ABC News correspondent and former CNN anchor and correspondent.
Exclusive Interview with Jeffrey Blount
by Sarah Baker
Jeffrey Blount has had a long, storied media career since graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University with a Mass Communication/Broadcast Media degree. Blount was Senior Director at NBC News Washington for nearly 34 years, during which time he earned an Emmy Award for his work. As a director he spearheaded the production of numerous presidential press conferences as well as Oval Office and State of the Union addresses. He has also written scripts for films shown in the Muhammad Ali Museum, The Newseum, The New England Patriots Museum, America I Am: The African American Imprint, The Museum at Bethel Woods/Woodstock and others. Most recently Blount has put his writing talents to use in penning Hating Heidi Foster, a fictional story that explores the power of grief and loss between two young friends.
Tell us about your writing process. When do you like to write? Where? Do you use a computer or write longhand? What do you advise to deal with writer’s block?
Until recently, my writing time was dictated by my work and family schedule. I usually found myself in our home office, after everyone else was in bed, writing late into the night. Now that I have retired from my job of 34 years, I’m working on creating a regular writing routine. Because my time was short, the most important thing was to be able to get quickly into the proper mood for writing. I didn’t have time to have a slow cup of coffee, take a walk and gradually warm up to my story and characters for the day’s writing. So I used music. Each book had its own theme music. I would listen to it as I read a few pages from my last writing session. The combination of the music and reading quickly put me in the right frame of mind to begin. I also let my characters live with me. When I had free time, in carpool line, lunch time, etc., I let my characters come to me and grow in my mind. I took notes and the story grew throughout the day. When I sat down, I wrote on a computer. I did so with only the light from my laptop or the addition of a desk lamp. It helped me focus if everything else fell away into the darkness.
As far as writer’s block goes, I’ve never experienced that. I think it’s because of the music. I trained my brain to react when I heard it and I was immediately writing.
Why is the book nearly always better than the movie?
Because no movie can get into the head of a character or the complexities of a rich plot in the same way a book does. The reader is exposed to so much more information and because of that he’s likely to have a much richer experience.
Which characters did you find most compelling and why?
The characters that are most compelling are the ones under stress; the ones who have something great to lose or who have already lost it. I mean a piece of their souls. They are the most compelling because we are conditioned to be attracted to stories about people who are on the edge of their dignity, who are fighting for physical or emotional survival. Those who are being challenged and are being forced to give up or rally.
What do you think makes a good story?
A story that moves or touches me deeply. I want a story that pulls me in and forces me to invest in it because I can feel that in the end, I will be somehow better for the time I have lived with these characters.
Is there a question you’re never asked as a writer that you’d like to address? This is your chance!
I cannot think of a question that I haven’t been asked! I’m looking forward to it though.