Daniel Wallace’s 13-year career working in a bookstore and designing greeting cards and refrigerator magnets came to an abrupt turn when his debut book, Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions, was published in 1998. Since then, Big Fish became a New York Times bestseller, was made into a hit movie by Director Tim Burton (2003), with a cast that included such stars as Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, and Marion Cotillard and, in 2013, was made into a Broadway musical.

Along the way, Wallace has written four more successful novels that have been translated into more than two-dozen languages and settled on a day job as the J. Ross MacDonald Distinguished Professor of English at the University of North Carolina, his alma mater, where he directs the Creative Writing Program.

His latest novel, Extraordinary Adventures, has been called “deliciously funny, moving, and generous” while being “soulful, wise, and surprisingly sexy.” With reviews like those and
with such a varied resume, we invited Daniel Wallace to participate in our One Hundred Words project from his home by writing one hundred word responses to the topics we suggested.

STAY THIRSTY: First time.

DANIEL WALLACE: Why is the first time “losing it?” It’s more about finding, really. The room where it happened I can remember with a photographic precision, from the soft single bed to the dark blue low-weave carpet, the brown pressboard paneling. It was the room where I hid my boa constrictor, until it escaped, and had a waterbed, until it sprung a leak and ruined my albums, where, before my family moved in, the maid had lived. The bathtub was as big as a small boat, with rusty clawed feet. Mary and I waited until everyone was gone, and we found it.


DANIEL WALLACE: I am on my father’s back as he flies through Eastwood Mall, about three feet above the ground. No one notices. He’s in his gray suit. His yellow tie drags across the linoleum floor. His arms are perpendicular to his body, as if this was necessary for lift, but we’re only three feet above the ground, weaving between families and couples, kids from school. Soon, I think, we’re going to glide out of the sliding glass doors, into the parking lot, and then up, up, up into the blue and the clouds, my father and I. But we do not.

STAY THIRSTY: Franz Kafka.

DANIEL WALLACE: He was the first to leave the dinner party. It was frivolous, pointless, and silly. The truth was nothing charmed him since Felice left for Vienna; already he was composing the letter he would write to her later that night. It was a long walk home but he walked, hoping that Prague’s nighttime beauty would distract him from his longing. But of course it didn’t; nothing would. The streetlamp on the corner cast a dull yellow light, like the eyes of an old cat. Still he paused there, briefly, and realized he was lost. Still he walked into the darkness.


DANIEL WALLACE: We went to Florida every summer, stayed in the worst hotels, but when my dad got rich he bought a condominium. My mother got it in the divorce, sold it after a couple of years, and from then on stayed in a little house on the bay, where she would meditate at the end of a pier. When she died we took her ashes there, and sat on the pier and poured them into the water, so clear: you could watch them sink to the bottom. I didn’t know they would sink. My mother’s ashes were heavier than I thought. 


DANIEL WALLACE: A cat lived in the alley behind a bar, eating scraps. One night, as the bartender was bringing out the trash, it tried to dash inside for classier comestibles – but the screen door slammed, severed its tail, and the cat had a heart attack, died. Later the bartender was throwing out the last bag and he encountered the cat’s ghost, who asked him to reattach his tail so he might have some afterworld peace. The bartender said he would – but it was against the law to retail spirits after three a.m. This joke was edited out of my first novel.

STAY THIRSTY: Friendship.

DANIEL WALLACE: There were six of us in the core group: Corrie, the two Marys, Abby, Mike, Jenny, sometimes Becca and Angela. This was in high school. Corrie and I were in the 10th grade; the others, the 11th. All of us were beautiful, or at least that’s how I see us looking back, 40 years later. Mike and I listened to music, and the girls I kissed, but they were just messing around with me. What’s remarkable is how, though so many of my friends and family have died, all of them are still alive. All of them. All of us. 


DANIEL WALLACE: I’d been divorced nine months and was still dating wildly, voraciously, selfishly: I’d missed the women my first marriage kept me from. One night I go into a restaurant, sit at the bar. A beautiful bartender with long red hair alive with curls serves me. Turns out she doesn’t even work there, it’s just this one night out of all nights she’s subbing for someone, and one night out of all nights I go into this place. I marry her two years later. If there is such a thing as fate, this is fate. But there is no such thing.


All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.