Andrew Wice is a novelist and poet who can be found waiting tables in Madrid, NM, where he lives.
Writing doesn’t pay the bills, he said. The 37-year-old has written a total of six novels and published several haiku poems.
“I would like to get to the point where my writing pays for my life, so that I don’t need to continue to be an aging waiter,” he said.
His latest novel, To the Last Drop, is his only book ever picked up by a publisher. The book, which hit shelves in 2008, is the story of a biologist who discovers water in New Mexico, causing Texas to overtake its neighbor to the west and inciting a New Mexican rebellion. It was inspired by life in the parched coal-mining town turned artist’s community of Madrid, Wice said.
“The water quality and quantity in Madrid is a constant issue in my life,” he said. “And, like, everyone here I have to bring in drinking water from outside of town because our water is contaminated with coal and heavy minerals and stuff like that.”
Wice researched the book for nine months. He said he spent much of that time sorting through books at the Santa Fe Public Library and digging up information online about terrorism, geology, biology, water laws and philosophy.
“I had expert readers in all of those fields to check over my manuscript,” he said. “They really saved me from a lot of embarrassing errors that I’m really glad did not get out.”
Wice’s research for novels has led him to Iceland, Miami and the Caribbean. He said Iceland left the greatest impression on him. The sun never went down during the whole three months he spent there, he said, which threw quite a wrench in his sleeping schedule.
He visited Iceland for a book he wrote about an Icelandic man who takes on the task of writing a novel about American football. He said he met people who would become lifelong friends and discovered a culture that maintains its unique pagan influence.
“No place are they more likely to believe in sprits and ghosts and fairies and elves,” he said.
Wice was born in Philadelphia, spent the early part of his childhood in Ann Arbor, Mich., and spent the latter in Chatham, N.J. and Washington, D.C.
While the Gulf War was in full swing in 1991, Wice was 17 and was selected to be a page for the U.S. Senate. There he was granted access to secret parts of the Capitol, which he said is much larger than meets the eye.
“The Capitol building looks like a large building but it’s actually much, much larger than you can see,” he said. “There are thousands of nooks and crannies. Many senior congressmen have a secret office, which is different from their office in the Senate or House office buildings.”
J.D. Salinger’s book, Nine Stories, and particularly its story “A Perfect Day for Banana Fish,” served as Wice’s initial inspiration to start dreaming up his own storylines and putting them to paper.
“When I was about 12 or 13, I was sick home from school, and rather than have me watch “The Price is Right” all day, which was my plan, my dad on his way to work dropped off a bunch of books and told me to read them,” he said. “The end of (A Perfect Day for Banana Fish) in particular just ran me over.”
Wice said when he began writing, he was most surprised by the lengthy, years-long process of writing a novel and getting it published.
“It still is unfathomable to me that it takes two years to write a book, working on it very hard six days a week for those two years,” he said. “There’s no way to prepare yourself for that.”
The hardest aspect of novel writing, he said, is the task of publishing his work and having it rejected. A book he wrote about the Caribbean, called Pirates of Crude, has been rejected by publishing companies and literary agencies more than 200 times, he said.
“As a young writer, I was sure that the greatness of my stuff would knock over all of the literary giants, all of them would be clamoring after me, and that my hard work would be rewarded.”
He anticipates the manuscript for the novel he’s writing, called The Object: A Love Story, will be out to publishers and agents this spring. It’s the story of a woman’s life told by 50 different narrators. The fastest it could reach bookshelves is Christmas 2013, although he’s almost certain the process will be more drawn out than that.
He said aspiring writers should read good writers and write.
“Everything else is just empty words,” he said. “That’s the secret right there.”