Digressing with Sam Apple

I worked with Sam Apple more than a decade ago, while he was launching The Faster Times, which was a sort of precursor to Quartz. I knew Sam to be a supremely nice guy, but I took for granted his smarts and his talent as a writer. I can hardly think of someone better suited to talk about the business of writing than Sam, who has been not only a publisher and editor, but is also a writer and a teacher. You can listen to the podcast here.

Sam writes fiction and non-fiction, but he says writing non-fiction was his form of “rebellion.” I should note that his father Max Apple wrote “The Oranging of America,” which had a huge influence on me as a young writer. But for Sam, having a father who was a writer let him know that being a writer was a viable way of making of a living.

He also noted that there’s a big overlap between being writer and entrepreneurship: the whole having the nuts to put yourself out there thing is least among them. He also talks about both science and writing being a quest for truth.

Sam is also a fan of audio books, which gives rise to a discussion about the role of the writer as entertainer. We also discuss the vocation of science writing — something of a rebellion against his fiction-writing roots — and the idea that writers and scientists have something very important in common, which is the search for truth.

Sam is the author most recently of Ravenous — Otto Warburg, the Nazis, and the Search for the Cancer-Diet Connection, published by Liveright, an imprint of W.W. Norton & Co. He has written for The New York Times Magazine, Wired, The Atlantic, NewYorker.com, and elsewhere. He is on the faculty of the MA in Science Writing and MA in Writing programs at Johns Hopkins University.

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