"Jim Buford evokes a time past, a childhood, and a sense of place that makes me long for a visit."
── Carolyn Haines, author of Bone Appetit
“Buford knows his landscape and his characters and writes about both with feeling and knowledge.”
── Wayne Greenhaw, author of Fighting the Devil in Dixie

“Smart and enormously skilled, Jim Buford is a writer who knows how to let a story find its righteous center.” 
── Jay Lamar, author of The Remembered Gate (with Jeanie Thompson)

“It’s as though you are visiting a place that caught your eye while passing through there years ago. You’ll be glad you stopped this time.”
── Julia Oliver, author of Devotion


Interview, continued...

JK: I'm interested in how you came to write these stories. Tell us a little about your background.

JB: I grew up on a farm near Milltown, AL, a small rural community in Chambers County, and graduated from high school there in 1956. There were 22 students in my class.

JK: Were there any indications during that time that you had talents that would lead to success in future endeavors?

JB: None that I can remember. I didn't get selected for any 'best' categories. I was a guard on our basketball team, but I couldn't hit from the circle so I was never a star. In the academic area, I was class historian, which is a consolation prize for not making graduation honors.

JK: How about later life?

JB: At various times I was a mill hand, pole grader, college student at Auburn, Army paratrooper, timber cruiser, graduate student at the University of Georgia and operations analyst before finally landing on the Auburn University faculty.

JK: You were a paratrooper. Did you jump out of airplanes for the thrill?

JB: Not really. I'm afraid of heights. I did it mainly because the Army paid me an extra $110 a month, which practically doubled my pay. Also, I was usually so airsick I would have jumped without a parachute.

JK: What is an operations analyst?

JB: It's a job where you put numbers in a computer and come up with tables and graphs so the company can make more money. Unless you are running a company, you probably wouldn't be interested in tables and graphs.

JK: I agree, so let's move on to your career at Auburn. What did you teach?

JB: I taught students how to put numbers in a computer and come up with tables and graphs.

JK: Did you do any writing at Auburn?

JB: Yes. I wrote textbooks and articles that had tables and graphs. They were pretty boring, and what I wanted to do was write something that people would actually enjoy reading. So I took early retirement and established a consulting practice. My first book of creative writing was published a short time later.

JK: Is there a general theme to your writing?

JB: All my books express my belief that while answers to the really big questions continue to elude us, ordinary life experiences may contain a hint of truth and a glimmer of meaning, typically overlooked by people who have the all the answers.

JK: Up until now your books have been nonfiction. Do your short stories convey the same general idea?

JB: Yes. Several of the stories are narrated by Ashley Baker, age 12, who raises awkward questions and resists guidelines set forth by the adult authority figures in his life.

JK: Ashley lives in Tucker's Mill. Do I detect a connection to Milltown, where you grew up?

JB: You might say that. Tucker's Mill and Milltown are similar in many ways.

JK: How about you and Ashley?

JB: We share many of the same attributes; however, Ashley is an improved version. For example, he is not afraid of heights.

JK: How about the other characters in your stories?

JB: They are fictitious, although I had some role models for characters that readers will find appealing. As Garrison Keillor might have put it, all the women were strong, all the men were good looking, and all the children were above average. So for characters that people won't like, I had to make them up.

JK: Surely there were a few shady or mean-spirited types in Milltown?

JB: Maybe so, but you won't read about them in these stories. I don't want to get sued.

JK: What should readers expect to find in your stories?

JB: A snapshot in time. The people, places, and events present life as it was in small communities in rural Alabama after World War II. People generally displayed the traditional virtues of family loyalty, a strong work ethic, reverence, and patriotism. But they also held to certain beliefs and practices that people today would find unacceptable. My objective was to be true to the period. That's the way we were, including me.

JK: So, looking back, how do you see yourself today?

JB: Well, I've been to a few places, acquired an education, served my country, had a career, and maybe learned a few things along the way, but I still see myself as a farm kid from Milltown.

back to Home


                                        © 2010 Jim Buford