great writers have written
and dissect them. They
contain all you need to
William Cane has had a distinguished career as a professor of English at CUNY and Boston College, where he helped a generation of students improve their prose by imitating great writers. Cane is the author of numerous books, including the international bestseller The Art of Kissing. A highly sought-after speaker on the college lecture circuit, he has appeared on almost every major television talk show, including Today, The View, and CBS This Morning.
Cane’s book, Write Like the Masters: Emulating the Best of Hemingway, Faulkner, Salinger, and Others, was one of the first books I worked on as an editor with Writer’s Digest Books. It’s one of my favorites to this day because it gives writers license to explore and develop their voice in a way that makes a lot of sense—by looking to great writers throughout history, studying their writing styles, and trying them out. Any great writer will tell you that the secret to developing your skill as a writer is to read a lot of work by good writers—Cane takes it one step further.
In this interview from 2009 Cane talks about this process and about reading, writing, and the importance of studying the greats.
writers ended up becoming
writers. When you were a
kid, what did you want to
be when you grew up?
Up until the age of six I wanted to be a Don Juan. Women reacted quite well to me at that age, too. Then from seven to thirteen I wanted to be an inventor. I believed I could invent flying machines like Tom Swift. After my first year of high school, after I had been introduced to the Greek dramatists, I wanted to be a Greek dramatist. I think my wish to be a writer originates from a deep desire to obtain the same kind of recognition that Euripides and Sophocles have.
The first thing I wrote was a science fiction short story inspired by the work of Ray Bradbury, specifically his novel Something Wicked This Way Comes. His language and poetry knocked me for a loop. I knew I had a long way to go before I could hope to ever reach his level, and I kept asking myself: How on earth did he do this? Where did he learn this? Is he blessed by God, or what? Why