Thomas Cobb, a recent graduate of the UH creative writing program, has sold his first
novel following competitive
bidding from six major publishers for the manuscript rights.
Harper and Row is printing
25,000 copies of his novel, Crazy
Heart, for first release in September. "A typical first print is
5,000 copies," Cobb said.
Author Rosellen Brown, one
of Cobb's instructors in the UH
program, has spoken with his
editor at Harper and Row.
"They have great expectations for Crazy Heart — far beyond the average novel," she
said. "Tom's book is going to
be much read and talked about.
It's going to make a big impact."
Cobb, reluctant to discuss his
advance, did say that it was
substancial for a book not in
tended for the popular market.
"It's more than what's typically
given for a first novel."
Crazy Heart is about country-western singer Bad Blake, a
56-year old alcoholic, who has
been four times married and
four times divorced. Very popular in the late '50s and early
'60s, Blake has lost his popularity and his record label. Now,
he plays with a house band in a
While on his annual working
roadtrip, Blake finds his son,
who he hasn't seen in 20 years,
and falls in love with a woman
in Santa Fe. He tries to build a
real relationship with the woman, but he doesn't know how.
"He looks for a redemption
he can't find," Cobb said. "His
aculturation is too much for
him to overcome."
Nevertheless, Cobb said the
novel is a tragi-comedy. "Bad is
a funny guy. He is an interesting
character that I like a lot."
Cobb, 39, said his novels are
not planned out. He just lets
them go and follows their direction. Discussing this technique, he quoted the poet Wil-
lam Stafford: "Writing is a way
of finding something to say that
you wouldn't have said if you
hadn't started writing." Crazy
Hart is Cobbs, second attempt
at a novel. The first was several
years ago, but it "went nowhere," he said.
"I tell writing students you've
got to fail a number of times to
get to the good stuff. Sometimes you just have to clear the
bad stuff out of the way. It's
another way to gain ground.
He said most writers have a
lot of trouble seeing it that way
"because writing is so incredibly personal."
"Writers must learn to objectify, to know that this is not
me, this is something I wrote,"
Cobb said. "And I will learn to
write better and better stuff. A
large percentage of what we
write is not successful."
Cobb came to Houston in
1982 because he could work on
his PH.D. and continue writing.
He was also attracted to the
faculty, particularly Brown and
"The creative writing program was still fairly new, but its
reputation was building. People
were talking about it, even in
"Tom knew what he was doing from the beginning,"
Brown said. "He improved in
the program, but he came in
with a great deal of talent."
Cobb said disciple is the major thing he learned at UH.
"I was always a binge writer,
he said. "I would write once
every two or three weeks, then
write all day and all night until I
had something done."
Now, Cobb said, he writes
five or sometimes six nights a
week. "I sit down until I have at
least three pages. I won't quit
until I have them," he said.
"At times I've been up until 2
a.m. struggling for that third
page — other evenings I've finished as many as seven pages by
Currently, Cobb is teaching
an introduction to fiction
course at UH and is acting director of lower division studies.
He is also writing another novel
and working on revisions of
Crazy Heart with Harper and
He will begin to read from
his work in Rhode Island and
will continue around the country through the fall.
Crazy Heart will be pre-published for the American Booksellers Association Meeting this
"Most publishers choose one
or two books to pre-publish so
booksellers have a chance to
preview them," Cobb said. "It's
important; it means more advance sales."
Cobb earned his B.A. and
M.A. in English and his M.F.A.
in creative writing (poetry)
from the University of Arizona.
Before coming to Houston he
was a bookstore owner in Tucson and Associate Editor of
Newsreal, a music publication.
— Marilyn Swanson