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new england writers at work

Doris Kearns Goodwin’s long writing process

Doris Kearns Goodwin in her Concord home that she shares with her husband who is also a writer.

Jonathan Wiggs /Globe staff

Doris Kearns Goodwin in her Concord home that she shares with her husband, who is also a writer.

Doris Kearns Goodwin bears the unique distinction of being New England’s only writer to have traveled from her home in Concord to pose on the red carpet with Daniel Day Lewis at this year’s Vanity Fair Oscar party. Goodwin was there, of course, because the role for which Lewis won best actor was based upon the Abraham Lincoln she depicted in her bestseller, “Team of Rivals.” The incredibly popular historian’s newest book is “The Bully Pulpit,” out this month from Simon and Schuster. It concerns the relationship of Presidents Taft and Roosevelt with the press. DreamWorks acquired the film rights in October.

HISTORY REPEATING: All of my books take so long to write. The book on Franklin and Eleanor [Roosevelt] and World War II [“No Ordinary Time”] took longer to write than the war took to be fought. The book on Lincoln took twice as long to write as it took for the Civil War to run its course. I’ve always thought [the Progressive Era] was such an exciting time [because] so much was happening. Reform was in the air because of the huge problems from the Industrial Age: the gap between the rich and the poor, the squeezing of the middle class. All of this is familiar today. It was less so when I started, but that’s what happens sometimes: By the time I finish [a book], there’s some echo of the present. It’s not like I foresee it — it takes me so long that things go back around.

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NEIN, HITLER: [“The Bully Pulpit”] took seven years. I knew it would inevitably be a long project, so the most important thing was to find a period of time and a person that I really wanted to spend time with. It would be pretty rocky to write about people I didn’t like. I don’t think I ever could write about Hitler or Stalin, and I have such respect for those who can and can keep their own sense of self going. I just couldn’t think about them all day.

Goodwin’s home is filled with books.

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Goodwin’s home is filled with books.

SOX FAN: Usually I don’t do any writing when the Red Sox are playing. During this summer, when I was under such a deadline to finish the book, I was doing nothing else; I wasn’t watching television, and we didn’t take a vacation because I just had to keep writing. I wasn’t even reading the newspaper except for the sports section.

WRITING LIVES: I’m so lucky that my husband’s a writer, too. . . . It’s great to have someone else writing in the house. Sometimes we go off to our separate places, and sometimes we sit in a room together.

QUITTIN’ TIME: We always go out for dinner. . . . There are a lot of people in Concord who go to bars or restaurants. I know that at 6:15 or 6:30, it’s time to go, and that’s the end of my day.

IN THE ZONE: When the Lincoln movie was being made, I spent time reading the draft [of the screenplay] Tony Kushner had done. I went to the filming, and I took Daniel Day Lewis to Springfield. Between the movie and the election, I totally lost momentum for a while. I wasn’t thinking about writing. When I got back into writing, it was so fun. It was that complete concentration I used to know back when I was single, before I had the kids and was teaching, and I could just work all day and all night if I wanted to. My husband went down to the Cape with a friend, so I was here alone for a couple weeks, and I was able to work all day and all night. There’s something kind of intense about that kind of hopeful creativity when you’re in that zone. I haven’t had that for a long time. But I’m glad to be back in my routine.

Eugenia Williamson is a writer and editor living in Somerville. She can be reached eugenia.williamson @gmail.com.
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