Robert Olen Butler
Pulitzer Prize-winning Fiction Writer
Author of A Small Hotel
“Butler...is masterful in the way he draws us into the hearts of his characters.” —Bookpage
“Robert Olen Butler is a literary Houdini, constantly challenging the power of his voice and astounding readers with his successes." —Boston Book Review
Dubbed by one critic as the “best living American writer,” Robert Olen Butler is the author of numerous novels and short story collections. A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain (2001) won the Pulitzer Prize: the 15 stories capture the voices of Vietnamese immigrants who have lost their homeland and are trying to adapt to an alien culture. A Small Hotel (2012) is a beautifully told story of love, loss, and redemption. Butler's other novels are: The Alleys of Eden, Sun Dogs, Countrymen of Bones, On Distant Ground, Wabash, The Deuce, They Whisper, The Deep Green Sea, Mr. Spaceman, Fair Warning, and Hell. His volumes of short fiction include: Tabloid Dreams, Had a Good Time, Severance, Intercourse, and Weegee Stories. He has also published a volume of his lectures on the creative process, From Where You Dream, edited with an introduction by Janet Burroway.
Butler's next book, The Hot Country, begins The Christopher Marlowe Cobb thriller series, and was published fall 2012 by Otto Penzler's The Mysterious Press at Grove/Atlantic. It is told in the voice of a swashbuckling early 20th century American newspaper war correspondent, whose voice Butler created for the story “The One in White” in Had a Good Time. Printed in the Atlantic Monthly, that story won (along with the Atlantic) a National Magazine Award in fiction. The Hot Country is set in Mexico in April and May of 1914, during that country’s civil war and the American invasion of Vera Cruz. The second novel in the series will be published in the fall of 2013.
A recipient of both a Guggenheim Fellowship in fiction and a National Endowment for the Arts grant, he also won the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. He has twice won a National Magazine Award in Fiction and has received two Pushcart Prizes. His stories have appeared widely in such publications as The New Yorker, Esquire, Harper’s, The Atlantic Monthly, GQ, Zoetrope, The Paris Review, The Hudson Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, and The Sewanee Review. They have also been chosen for inclusion in four annual editions of The Best American Short Stories, eight annual editions of New Stories from the South, several other major annual anthologies, and numerous college literature textbooks from such publishers as Simon & Schuster, Norton, Viking, Little Brown & Co., Houghton Mifflin, Oxford University Press, Prentice Hall, and Bedford/St.Martin and most recently in The New Granta Book of the American Short Story, edited by Richard Ford.
His works have been translated into nineteen languages, including Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, Polish, Japanese, Serbian, Farsi, Czech, Estonian, and Greek. He was also a charter recipient of the Tu Do Chinh Kien Award given by the Vietnam Veterans of America for “outstanding contributions to American culture by a Vietnam veteran.” Over the past fifteen years he has lectured in universities, appeared at conferences, and met with writers groups in 17 countries as a Literary Envoy for the U. S. State Department.
Since 1995 he has written feature-length screenplays for New Regency, Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Disney, Universal Pictures, Baldwin Entertainment Group (for Robert Redford), and two teleplays for HBO. Typical of Hollywood, none of these movies he was hired to write ever made it to the screen.
He is a Francis Eppes Distinguished Professor holding the Michael Shaara Chair in Creative Writing at Florida State University. Under the auspices of the FSU website, in the fall of 2001, he did something no other writer has ever done, before or since: he revealed his writing process in full, in real time, in a webcast that observed him in seventeen two-hour sessions write a literary short story from its first inspiration to its final polished form. He also gave a running commentary on his artistic choices and spent a half-hour in each episode answering the emailed questions of his live viewers. The whole series is a very popular download on iTunes under the title “Inside Creative Writing.” He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the State University of New York system.
Butler lives in Capps, Florida, which has a population of one. Not surprisingly, he was recently re-elected Mayor of Capps.
About THE HOT COUNTRY (2012)
The Hot Country will begin the Christopher Marlowe Cobb thriller series, to be published by Otto Penzler's The Mysterious Press of Grove Atlantic. It is told in the voice of a swashbuckling early 20th century American newspaper war correspondent, whose voice Butler created for the story “The One in White” in Had a Good Time. Printed in the Atlantic Monthly, that story won (along with the Atlantic) a National Magazine Award in fiction. The Hot Country is set in Mexico in April and May of 1914, during that country’s civil war and the American invasion of Vera Cruz. The second novel in the series will be published in the fall of 2013.
About A SMALL HOTEL (2011)
“A sleek, erotic, and suspenseful drama about men who cannot say the word love and the women they harm.... Butler executes a plot twist of profound proportions in this gorgeously controlled, unnerving, and beautifully revealing tale of the consequences of emotional withholding.” —Donna Seaman
With A Small Hotel, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler has turned his attention to the complexities of a male-female relationship and delivered a beautifully told story of love, loss, and redemption. Set in contemporary New Orleans but working its way back in time, A Small Hotel chronicles the relationship between Michael and Kelly Hays, who have decided to separate after twenty-four years of marriage. The book begins on the day that the Hays are to finalize their divorce. Kelly is due to be in court, but instead she drives from her home in Pensacola, Florida, across the panhandle to New Orleans and checks into Room 303 at the Olivier House in the city’s French Quarter—the hotel where she and Michael fell in love some twenty-five years earlier and where she now finds herself about to make a decision that will forever affect her, Michael, and their nineteen-year-old daughter, Samantha. An intelligent, deeply moving, and remarkably written portrait of a relationship that reads as a cross between a romance novel and a literary page turner, A Small Hotel is a masterful story that will remind readers once again why Robert Olen Butler has been called the “best living American writer” (Jeff Guinn, Fort Worth Star-Telegram).
About A GOOD SCENT FROM A STRANGE MOUNTAIN (1992)
In a collection of bittersweet stories about Vietnamese expatriates living in the American South, Butler blends Vietnamese folklore and American realities, lyric, dreamlike passages and comic turns, to create a panoramic tapestry of a people struggling to find a balance between their hearts and their hopes.