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Oct 9, 2018

How Literary Journalist and Novelist Michael Scott Moore Writes

The author of the captivity memoir, The Desert and the Sea: 977 Days Captive on the Somali Pirate Coast, Michael Scott Moore joined me this week to talk about his fascinating journey as a writer, how he wrote his harrowing and detailed memoir (much of it without notes), and why it’s changed him as a writer and a person.

Michael is an investigative journalist, novelist, and author of a critically acclaimed folk history of surfing, Sweetness and Blood, named a book of the year by The Economist in 2010.

The author travelled to the Horn of Africa, while researching piracy along the coast of Somalia in 2012, where he was abducted and held captive for over two and half years, for a ransom of $20 million.

In his riveting personal account of the experience, chronicled in The Desert and the Sea, Mike deftly examines the history of piracy, religious extremism, geopolitical factors, and his own dark humor and humanity to capture what reviewers have called, “A harrowing and affecting account of … captivity at the hands of Somali pirates.” (Kirkus)

His story, described as a “Catch-22 meets Black Hawk Down,” has been featured on NPR s All Things Considered, Fresh Air, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, CBS This Morning, The Joe Rogan Experience, and many others.

The author has covered the European migration crisis for Businessweek, and politics, travel, and literature for The Atlantic, Der Spiegel, The New Republic, The New York Times, and The L.A. Review of Books.

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In this file Michael Scott Moore and I discuss:

  • How the author was able to write about his lengthy and traumatic time as a hostage
  • Why the discipline of taking handwritten notes is so important for retention
  • How memory shapes stories so deeply
  • Why Mike recorded everything he could remember as quickly as he could once he was freed
  • How the author found an existential detachment in order to stay sane
  • Why revision is the scaffolding that allows inspiration

The Show Notes: