Matt Bondurant caught his first break at Mason.
After moving back to his hometown in Northern Virginia, Bondurant began interviewing for part-time academic jobs but was hired as a full-time faculty in Fairfax, a rare feat for an aspiring author with no publications to his name.
“I was the guy with a Ph. D. and nothing else,” Bondurant said.
Despite a heavy teaching load consisting of four composition courses, Bondurant published his first book shortly after coming to Mason.
He immediately began working on his second book, efficiently using his infrequent free time to churn out another novel.
“You have to manage your time,” Bondurant said. “But the teaching schedule allows some flexibility.”
Because it is essential for an author to have numerous publications to his name in order to advance in the field of academia, Bondurant worked at an astonishing pace, publishing a book every three to four years.
“If I hadn’t been under the gun, academically speaking, I would have spent another year or two on most of my books,” Bondurant said. “But, on the other hand, after three or four years, I get kind of sick of one thing. I invest myself in a world for three or four years. As soon as I’m finished, I leave it and move on to something completely different.”
Now at a point in his career when he can take more time between novels, Bondurant intends to follow the path of Jeffrey Eugenides and Jonathan Franzen, taking about 10 years to publish his next work.
Abnormal, perhaps, for an established author, Bondurant has written a handful of books, each for a vastly different audience. While the style of writing – a blend of fact and fiction – remains constant, Bondurant has explored remarkably different subject matters and locations.
His first book, “The Third Translation” features an American Egyptologist in London while his newest book, “The Night Swimmer,” is a modern gothic novel based in a small town on the southern coast of Ireland. “The Wettest County” brings him back to the states during the prohibition era in Franklin County, Va.
“I’m really fascinated by isolated communities and environments,” Bondurant said. “So [my work] is based heavily on research. I do write a lot about things that actually are.”
While the subject matter may seem scattered and unusual, Bondurant writes each of his novels for an ideal writer. Each of his three books has an intended audience and is, oftentimes, focused on appealing to someone close to him.
“I was writing my first book for my graduate school friends. That’s why it is full of scatological humor and weird things,” Bondurant said. “The second one was for my dad. It was to pay homage and to honor them in some way. ‘The Night Swimmer’ was a book I wrote for my wide. I wanted to write a book that she would just love; it’s more of a love story, a relationship story.”
Currently in theaters, Bondurant’s “The Wettest County in the World,” was turned into a film by director John Hillcoat and fields a cast of Shia Labeouf, Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Gary Oldman and Guy Pearce.
“The film is an honor of a kind,” Bondurant said. “But it’s a different animal than your book. It’s somebody else’s artistic vision based on my book.”
His goal, he says, has and always will be to write with the goal of earning an opportunity to publish another book. Like authors before him, he aims to write novels that will change the scenery of novels forever.
“You want to write a book that somehow changes the landscape a little bit,” Bondurant said. “You want to put something out that seems like such a fresh, new take on something that books after that will never be written the same again.”