NEW HAMPTON, N.H. — More than four decades into a career that has brought him a measure of acclaim most writers can only dream of, including an Academy Award for writing the screenplay adaptation of his play “On Golden Pond,” Ernest Thompson still has an enthusiasm for storytelling that’s infectious. Spend an hour with him, and you may want to go home and start writing your own novel.
“I like [writing] to be fun,” he says, “and I refuse ever to identify myself as someone whose job is being a writer, because a job sounds like work”—he pauses for emphasis—"and I don’t like work.”
Over the years his output has included songs, plays, screenplays for movies and television, and more. This week he’ll check another box with the release of “The Book of Maps,” his first published novel.
“It hasn’t taken me until now to write a novel,” he notes. “It’s taken until now for someone to publish a novel of mine. So, all your writers listening in the audience, don’t despair, don’t give up, because I’ve probably written five novels--and eventually they’ll get published.”
“The Book of Maps” tells the story of a father and son on a road trip, a tale loosely inspired by a similar journey Thompson took with his son about twenty years ago. His aim was to craft a novel about the bonds of family with “gravitas and emotion,” but also with humor.
“I don’t write anything that doesn’t have humor in it,” he says. “I believe if you can make an audience laugh or your readers laugh, you can take them anywhere.”
Thompson says he always tries to bring three elements to his writing: heart, humor and hope. To him, the last is the most important, and it’s reflected in his latest work. “While there’s a lot of scary stuff in ‘The Book of Maps,’” he says, “ultimately, it’s a hopeful story.”