By Tanner Mantel
To some, being an author may not seem like a very realistic career path. Few writers are recognized for their work, let alone nationally – or internationally. When this success is achieved it’s a very exciting thing, and even more exciting when internationally recognized authors put time aside to speak with aspiring writers.
In the first semester of my freshman year, I had a class in which we read a book written by an author from Eau Claire. I remember being shocked at hearing how well the book was doing, since it seems impossible for someone from this little corner of the world would be known all over the world – especially with a book about our little corner of the world.
When this assignment came up, I immediately remembered this book I had read and I wondered if the author still lived in the area. To my delight, I was able to get into contact with Nickolas Butler and he agreed to let me shadow him and find out what it’s really like to choose writing as a career path.
Butler is the author of the international bestseller, Shotgun Lovesongs. In addition to this he has a book of short stories published, multiple works in various publications, and another novel on the way.
Though Butler was born in Pennsylvania, he grew up in Eau Claire and lives here currently with his wife and two children. He studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and then the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop, before achieving success with Shotgun Lovesongs.
The most important advice that Butler had for me was to immerse myself completely in my work and get it out there. No one will ever read it if I never send it out to be read. As someone who struggles with letting people read my original work, I thought this was incredibly helpful to hear.
Butler himself compiled stories throughout grad school so by the time he had an agent when he was finished; they were able to send out his novel to different publishers. The process, he explained, was a sort of auction. Whoever wanted to pay the most for his novel, got the rights for publication.
Since he’s gained such popularity, he’s guaranteed work being published in the future unless it’s “just really, really bad.”
Though his work is incredibly popular, Butler’s life hasn’t changed much since his discovery. “It’s probably the most manageable level of celebrity,” he says. I could not think of a more accurate description. When the day led us to a local bar for lunch he pointed out that most of its customers probably wouldn’t know who he is.
Even if he’s just another citizen of Eau Claire, meeting with Butler solidified my desire to continue down the path that I am. He gave me a firsthand experience of what life could be like, and advice about which steps I need to take to get there.