Tom Lambert is living proof that good writing comes from the heart. Lack of a college degree didn’t stymie the semi-retired cabinetmaker’s desire or ability to craft his debut novel, Living with Earl. Combining whimsy, sound thoughts and philosophy, the end result is a semi-autobiographical, fictionalized account of Lambert’s time with a houseguest who may or may not have been Mark Twain. Lambert’s ability to channel the mannerisms and soul of the 19th-century scribe delivers the Wood County native’s book debut through a time machine: Twain’s thoughts applied to modern living. More than 100 years after his death, Twain dissects our foibles through Lambert’s words.
Lambert will be on hand at the Wood County Library on December 10 to discuss his work, sign copies of his book and expound on the Twainisms that brought Living With Earl to life. And maybe he’ll let something slip about his upcoming audiobook, due before Christmas.
What’s it like to be doing a reading of your debut novel?
It’s a big deal to be at the Wood County Library, considering Bowling Green is my hometown. I’m kind of an unlikely author seeing as how I failed English twice in high school. I never actually went to college— I took some English writing courses but never completed a degree, so it’s an exciting time for me.
Why did you decide to write a book?
I used to write these little strange things every morning on Facebook— these little puns, for instance: “In 1942, according to Earl, the first Dalmatian was spotted.” This fictitious person, Earl, would always make these outrageously groan-y puns so I wouldn’t have to attribute them to myself. One day, having run out of puns, I said, “As of this date, Earl will now take on the persona of Mark Twain,” which gave me an endless amount of daily stories, which would end with a quote from Earl, AKA Mark Twain. After seven months, I wasn’t getting any response and I thought I was the only one reading them. So I wrote that I would not be posting any more stories. And that day, almost 100 people said, “No, you can’t take this away. I’m reading it every day and I’m enjoying it.” I didn’t know what to do with it, and then a retired librarian told me I needed to put it into something more durable.
Describe the process of writing the book.
It was actually a whole lot easier than I ever imagined. I always thought the only people who could write books were people with a college education and great credentials. The writing actually came very easily for me— I guess because I’m a consummate liar. I won’t say it’s the Great American Novel, but [I’ve sold] upwards of 800 copies now and I’ve got a sequel in the works.
It’s a little folksy, philosophical book. All the stories that include only me— that Earl is not involved in, are all true, autobiographical stories. They happened in my youth, things that I observed. And, of course, all the stories with Earl are fictitious.
The story actually takes place in Bowling Green?
It all takes place in Bowling Green. 90 percent of it takes place on my front porch. He and I sitting in chairs, sharing stories and laughter and him smoking his incessant cigar. There’s references to Howard’s (Club H) and Grounds For Thought and businesses that used to be here. So it’s definitely got a Bowling Green flavor to it.
Did you try and get it published?
The book never started out to be a book, so it never had the intention of actually being published. By putting it in book form, I wasn’t prepared to be sending it out to publishers and receiving rejection slips… it just wasn’t my plan at all. Plus, I didn’t think my ego could handle it. It was just a “Let’s put this out here as a legacy for my children.”
What advice can you give to people who want to write their own book?
Well, given my own history, that I’m not a scholar and that I didn’t graduate from some English-oriented university, if you have a book in you and I’m sure everybody does, then pick up a pen and you can write a book. You don’t have to be a good writer to write a book, I’m living proof that’s not necessarily the case.
You can find copies of Living With Earl in Bowling Green at Grounds For Thought, Finders, Calico Sage and Thyme, Sunset Bistro and Ben Franklin. Also get it in print or on Kindle from Amazon.
1pm. Saturday | December 10.
Wood County District Public Library | 251 N. Main St.