Ray Bradbury is the 86-year-old author of more than 50 books, including such classics as The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451and Something Wicked This Way Comes. His latest novel, Farewell Summer, is a sequel to his celebration of childhood, Dandelion Wine, first published in 1957.
First, is it okay to mention your age?
Sure, what the hell. I'm just 12 years old.
So you're a 12-year-old octogenarian. Are you keeping busy?
I have three books coming out this fall. Besides Farewell Summer, I have Somewhere a Band Is Playing, a fantasy, and Leviathan 99, a kind of Moby-Dick in outer space.
Why decades later did you write a sequel to Dandelion Wine?
Farewell Summer was originally part of the book I submitted to Doubleday 55 years ago. They said it was too long and cut it right in half. The first half they called Dandelion Wine. The second half was renamed Wild Summer. It just took me a little while to get it in shape under the title Farewell Summer.
Do you remember the sale of your very first story?
When I was 19 years old, I showed a story I had written to my teacher and friend, Robert Heinlein. I can't remember the name of it, or the name of the magazine. There was no pay, but I got free copies of the magazine. I ran around giving them to everybody. I was selling newspapers on a street corner in Los Angeles and even gave away copies to my customers. I was on that street for four years, every afternoon. I made $10 a week on that corner, and it gave me time to write my stories and go to the library.
Was there any one writer who especially influenced you?
Edgar Rice Burroughs. I read all the Tarzan books, and I followed the Tarzan cartoon strip in the Sunday newspapers. I was inspired to write a sequel to some of Burroughs's Martian books.
Was it ever published?
God, no, I was 12 years old!
Of course, you later wrote your Martian Chronicles.
Yes, that book reflects the Burroughs influence.
Did you think you would still be writing at 86?
When you're young and someone tells you that you're going to be 50 years old some day, that sounds old. Then all of a sudden you're 86. It's incredible.
What are you going to do when you're 100 years old?
Wait till I get there.