ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
COSTCO BOOK CLUB
Cha r a bc tue rildin g Author Mark Spragg
followed a different
path to success
By Dorman T. Shindler
“Ibelieve all stories Spragg says that by the time he was 8, he
are character driv- already knew he wanted to be a writer. Book Giveaway
en,” says writer Though he published stories in literary
Mark Spragg dur- magazines after college, Spragg had to work
ing a recent tele- odd jobs to pay the bills. Eventually, at the
phone interview from urging of a friend, he triedhis his hand at
his home in Wyoming. screenwriting and found steady, but ulti-
“It’s very obvious to see mately unfulfilling, work.
what the plot of most “Your best work ends up on a studio
storiesis;andyet, ifthe shelf and your worst work gets even
characters weren’t rec- worse by being rewritten by half a dozen
ognizable to us, it would be so trite it would other people,” Spragg says.
be unreadable.” After 12 years of such frustrations,
That might seem like an unusual state- he turned to writing prose again, pub-ment coming from someone who has earned lishing an award-winning memoir,
the better part of his living by writing movies Where Rivers Change Direction, in
Costco has 10 autographed copies of
An Unfinished Life, by Mark Spragg
to give away. Turn to page 50 for
details on how to enter.
■ Join the Costco Book
Club and send your feedback on this month’s book
by e-mailing bookclub@
costco.com. Book Club members receive a free monthly
(such as Gross Anatomy) for Hollywood, where 1999 about his life on his father’s hit theaters this winter.
action-driven films seem to be the order of the ranch. In 2002 he published his first “There are some things that
day. But Spragg, the author of this month’s novel, The Fruit of Stone. are very different in the book than
Costco Book Club pick, An Unfinished Life, is So when Spragg told his wife about an idea are in the movie,” says Spragg,
an unusual man. Neither his life nor his liter- for a second novel, An Unfinished Life, and “[But] they are stories about forgiveness, sto-
ary career has followed a familiar path. she suggested they turn it into a screenplay, ries about an extended family, stories about
Raised on his father’s Wyoming dude he was caught off guard. But only for a how our love extends to our dead—wonder-
ranch, Spragg grew up in a house without minute; the idea so excited him that he ended ing whether they love us back, whether they
radio or TV reception. Electricity and indoor up working on both at the same time. value us.”
plumbing were luxuries he didn’t enjoy until “I don’t think an American author has In the end, Spragg says, An Unfinished
the age of 16. “It gave me a very skewed, ever done this before,” says Spragg, when Life is the story of a particular character, and
almost 19th-century idea of the nature of the talking about writing both a screenplay and the lives his soul touches.
world,” says Spragg of his childhood years. a book that make use of the same story line “I had this image of this man who
Yet he never lacked for reading material. and characters. became Einar Gilkyson sitting on a porch,”
“My little brother and I were absolutely For Spragg, it was a change of heart that says Spragg. “Ahideously embittered man …
addicted to reading,” he says, recalling that paid off. The work got the attention of Lasse I always saw him surrounded by this mob of
the town librarian in Cody gave the boys carte Halström (director of The Cider House half-feral cats,” he adds with a laugh.
blanche when checking out reading material. Rules) and was made into a movie that will Soon, Spragg’s imagination conjured up
other characters: Jean, the daughter-in-law
who still hopes for Einar’s forgiveness; Griff,
the granddaughter he has never met; and Roy,
Jean’s unstable boyfriend who won’t take no
for an answer.
Gilkyson has blamed Jean for the accident
that caused his son’s death.
Their search for love and reconciliation is
the premise for this month’s Book Club pick,
An Unfinished Life, by Mark Spragg.
JMy interest in this author began when
ean Gilkyson I read this description of Spragg by author
finds herself with yet another brutal Kent Haruf: “One of the truest and most origi-boyfriend when she realizes the kind of nal new voices in American letters.” Haruf is
life she’s been living has got to stop. Looking absolutely right. Spragg offers readers a com-to escape her current situation—especially for pelling story rich with all-too-real characters.
the sake of her 10-year-old daughter, Griff— An Unfinished Life is available in most
Jean’s only option is to head to Wyoming, Costco warehouses and at costco.com.
where her relatives are dead and her father-in- —Pennie Clark Ianniciello
law wishes she were, too. For 10 years Einar Costco Book Buyer
“Character is everything,” says Spragg.
“I would never outline a book based on plot.
I outline based on character: As the character
grows in my imagination, I change the outline. And once I add [another] character and
see how they’re going to interact, I get more
of a sense of plot.” C
Dorman T. Shindler, a freelance writer from
Missouri, contributes regularly to Better
Homes and Gardens, Kansas City Magazine
and Publishers Weekly.