Episode 117: The Slow Descent of the Anti-Hero — Interview with Teddy Wayne

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Podcast

Hey there word nerds!

Today I am pleased to have Teddy Wayne on the show.

Teddy  is the author of several books, most recently his novel Loner, which is out now. Teddy has won numerous writing awards, is regular contributor to several prestigious publications, and has taught at Columbia University in NYC and Washington University in St. Louis.

In this interview, we talk about Teddy’s newest book and the craft behind bringing an anti-hero to life on the page. During the episode, we geek out about anti-heroes, Hitchcock movies, and how trying to understand reprehensible characters can help expand our humanity. Listen below.

In this episode we discuss:

  • What writers can learn about crafting an anti-hero from the TV show All in the Family, and how to create a character who is deeply flawed but also relatable.
  • How much of an anti-hero’s character is shaped by internal qualities versus environmental or situational factors.
  • How to avoid making an anti-hero seem over-simplified and make readers feel connected to an evil character.
  • The difference between an extraordinary character’s slow descent into darkness, and a regular character making a terrible choice and having to “fix” the situation.
  • The two components that writers can infuse into literary fiction to make it come to life and hook readers.

Plus, Teddy’s #1 tip for writers.

About the Teddy Wayne

Teddy Wayne is the author of the novels Loner, The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, and Kapitoil. He is the winner of a Whiting Writers’ Award and an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship as well as a finalist for the Young Lions Fiction Award, PEN/Bingham Prize, and Dayton Literary Peace Prize. A columnist for the New York Times, he is a regular contributor to The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and McSweeney’s and has taught at Columbia University and Washington University in St. Louis. He lives in New York.

To learn more about Teddy and his books, visit his website at TeddyWayne.com.


loner(As with most books we recommend on DIY MFA, the links below are Amazon affiliate links. This means if you choose to purchase via these links, DIY MFA gets a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting DIY MFA!)

With the same knack for voice and piercing social commentary Wayne gave readers in The Love Song of Jonny Valentine and Kapitoil, LONER is a riveting, frighteningly believable portrait of obsession on a college campus. Much like Claire Messud’s The Woman Upstairs, Herman Koch’s The Dinner, and Charlotte Rogan’s The Lifeboat—and, further back, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Lolita, and Notes from Underground—it is one of those rare novels where, as the pages fly by, readers feel everything from fear to rage to empathy for characters they might not like, but nevertheless find completely mesmerizing.

Wayne’s New York Times column the last couple of years, “Future Tense,” has demonstrated his critical talents for dissecting the alienating effects of contemporary culture, and LONER continues this with the misfit David Federman at the center of the novel. An academically gifted yet painfully forgettable member of his New Jersey high school class, the withdrawn, mild-mannered freshman arrives at Harvard fully expecting to be embraced by a new tribe of high-achieving peers. But, initially, his social prospects seem unlikely to change.

Then Veronica Morgan Wells enters his life. Immediately struck by her beauty, wit, and sophisticated Manhattan upbringing, David falls feverishly in love with the woman he sees as an embodiment of what he’s always wanted to be: popular, attractive, powerful. Determined to stop at nothing to win her attention and an invitation into her glamorous world, he begins compromising his moral standards. But both Veronica and David, it turns out, are not exactly as they seem.

Links & Resources

Link to Episode 117

(Right-click to download.)

Check out these previous podcast episodes talking about systematic and deliberate practice in writing. These interview share some great insights about how to practice as a writer.

  • Episode 61: How to Write Spellbinding Sentences – Interview with Barbara Baig DIYMFA.com/061
  • Episode 89: The Power of Deliberate Practice – Interview with Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool DIYMFA.com/089

If you want to go even further and learn more about focused practice, check out these two books:

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Until next week, keep writing and keep being awesome!



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