Susan Siman talks with author David Maraniss in The Conversation

Author just finished 10th book
Susan Siman talks with author David Maraniss in The Conversation

News 3’s Susan Siman sits down with Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss for “The Conversation.”

He’s been trekking across the wold in his latest book tour, but he said always finds a way to come back to Madison.

SUSAN: How big an influence was or is Madison on your life and career do you think?

DAVID: My wife grew up here too, so it’s our homeland in every possible way. We love to come back. We bought a house to come back here 10 years ago and spend our summers here. It’s just an easy place. Washington is sort of one-dimensional and all based on status and Madison isn’t like that.

Maraniss just completed his 10th book, a 600-page memoir of President Barack Obama.

SUSAN: You have a reputation for doing exhaustive research for a book like this, so how do you do it?

DAVID: People always use the word ‘exhaustive,’ which makes me tired. For a lazy guy, I do work a lot. No, how I start is by reading everything I can and then from that point after I’ve read it, I know nothing and I have to start from scratch. My motto is ‘go there.’ Wherever it is, so I went to all of the places of their lives.

Maraniss won a Pulitzer Prize and his other books include two on former President Bill Clinton, a look at the Vietnam era in Madison and bestsellers on Roberto Clements and Packer legend Vince Lombardi.

SUSAN: Are some of them more fun than others or less work than others? Lombardi must have been a real labor of love.

DAVID: Lombardi was. I was a little afraid that the Packers of my childhood would turn out to be jerks and they really weren’t. So, that was nice. Every one of my books, it’s sort of like having grandchildren which I have. I don’t like to choose between them. I find some joy in every one whether it’s Lombardi or Clemente who was my favorite baseball player or the Vietnam era which was my era, or political characters like Obama and Clinton.

SUSAN: Tell me a little bit about you growing up in Madison. Where did you grow up in town?

DAVID: I grew up at 1619 Regent St. in a great house in a great University Heights neighborhood, which is now a student slum. The house is not what it used to be but it was a fabulous place to grow up. It was a block from the fieldhouse and the stadium. As a kid, I spent most of my derelict youth sneaking into basketball and football games.


DAVID: My first job was the messenger for The Associated Press at football games. This was such a different era that I would be on the field with the photographers; they would hand me their roll of film. I would leave the stadium, get on my bike and ride my bike down to Dayton Street where the dark room was. That was the era, but everything revolved around the university.

Maraniss graduated from Madison West high school in 1967 and went on to study Journalism at the University of Wisconsin Madison. He learned writing as an apprentice in the family trade.

DAVID: My dad was a newspaper man. He was the editor of the Capital Times in his final years. When I was a kid, he was the city editor. My mother was a book editor at the University of Wisconsin press. So it’s in your DNA. It’s in my DNA and I was the dumb kid in my family. My older brother and sister were both scholars and my little sister was a classical pianist so I was the one who followed my dad into journalism.

Maraniss has worked for The Washington Post since 1977. He is 63 years old and is still going strong as an associate editor.

SUSAN: If I was going to write a book about you and your life what would I call it?

DAVID: I probably couldn’t say it on the air. ‘Screw up makes good somehow.’ You feel like you’ve been lucky. Lucky because I really can’t do much but write. I can’t change a light bulb. I mean, I’m lucky I found what I love to do and I’ve worked hard to get where I am now but a lot of it is just going after what I love and that usually makes the difference.