By Emily Mellentine, Kristen Fuhs Wells Communications Intern
We recently spoke with Caleb Caudell, author of The Neighbor and numerous short fiction and nonfiction pieces published online, and Novelty and Other Short Stories, which is forthcoming this summer.
Caudell’s debut novel, The Neighbor, was selected for our 2022 Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Awards shortlist in the debut category. It was published in 2021 by Bonfire Books and is available in local bookstores and online.
When asked why he writes, Caudell replied, “I simply have to.”
The southern Indiana native described having a deep need for expression and performance though he prefers to do through writing in solitude. Even when he’s not putting pen to paper, he said, “In my head, I’m constantly writing. It’s a covert activity.”
According to Caudell, The Neighbor took about four months to complete. He explained that it would’ve taken half the time if the laptop with his sole draft of the book hadn’t been stolen from his car. He grieved the loss for about a week, then started again, rewriting from memory.
The book’s plot is based mainly on his experience living in Fountain Square, a cultural district just south of downtown Indianapolis. With drug dealers as neighbors, one of whom was killed, the idea for his dual-narrative story of desperate characters struggling with addiction, social decline, nowhere to go and nothing to do was born.
Caudell’s writing in his book and Substack blog posts include significant themes of existentialism and human suffering, while offering critiques of modern society and work. It reflects the things he has felt since being a sheltered, lone-wolf kid and a precocious reader.
“Human suffering is a fundamental factor. We begin with the fact that we exist and suffer; it varies based on class and identity. Regardless, we are plagued with questions about why we are here and what to do. You can reach anyone by focusing on the broad outline of existence and suffering.”
Once Caudell finished his draft, he decided to use the reach of Twitter to help get his book published. One day he tweeted, “Who wants to publish my book?” He soon received an offer from Australia-based Bonfire Books. As he doesn’t consume much online content but wants to remain accessible, Caudell credits Twitter as the social media platform on which he can build and engage with an audience.
Caudell shared that his next project, Novelty and Other Short Stories, will be published this summer by Bonfire Books. With around 15 stories written in varying styles and of variable lengths, the writer opens windows for his readers to discover different worlds and characters, including one story told in a series of Yelp reviews about a murderous restaurant owner. The collection was written over the span of four years, with gritty realism and down-and-out characters playing prominent roles.
For writers just getting started, Caudell advised, “Find some balance. Treat it like a job you show up to, and don’t only write when you are bursting with inspiration. Use creative self-expression, apply some structure and be consistent, but there’s no need to drive yourself to burnout.”
“Some overemphasize the craft and always working and writing. Don’t turn writing into a grinding obligation. But, on the other hand, I don’t think you should be lazy and only write at the height of creativity. Read as much as you can. Read books you might not like but don’t stuff yourself with trash.”
If you’re looking for a good read, Caudell recommends The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq.
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Caleb Caudell grew up in southern Indiana and received his B.A in comparative literature at Indiana University. He spent his twenties playing music, and he now works at various coffee shops around Indianapolis, including Bovaconti and The Commissary, while focusing on his writing.