A. Farewell Summer is the second half of Dandelion Wine. When I submitted Dandelion Wine to my publishers back in 1957, they said that the book was too long and to break it in half and call the first half Dandelion Wine and the second half Farewell Summer, and that I could publish it in the years ahead. So fifty years went by during which I took the second half in and out of my files, making some few changes. Finally, because of my good editor and publishers, I took Farewell Summer out of the files again and finished it. I’m glad for the presence of Jennifer Brehl, my editor, because she’s always at my elbow, encouraging me to finish up what should be finished.
Q. With almost 50 years between the publication of Dandelion Wine and Farewell Summer, I'd like to know if the passage of half a century has changed your perception of childhood? Now that you've raised a family, watched your kids and your grandchildren growing up, can that perception possibly be the same? —Jon
A. I don’t think it’s changed in any way. The center of childhood is the discovery that you’re alive. It occurs at different ages with different people, but I discovered it to a fantastic degree when I was eleven years old. That revelation stayed with me for the rest of my life. I’m still completely aware of the gift of being alive and how wonderful it’s been for me to perceive life, hour by hour and day by day, so my feelings about living and being alive have not changed in any way and they’re at the center of Farewell Summer. My best personal wishes to Jon.
Q. How did you come up with the ending for Farewell Summer? When you were writing Dandelion Wine did you have an idea of a sequel or did something happen more recently that drove this idea for the book’s conclusion? -- Matt
A. The ending for Farewell Summer happened in a single day somewhere along the line in the past two years. All these things are surprises to me. I don’t question my writing; my subconscious does all the work and came up with that ending. Now that I look at it, I’m glad that I have a great subconscious.
Q. In addition to Mr. Bradbury's own books, what are some books he'd recommend reading to young children? My grandsons are six years old and are already showing great imagination. —Mark S.
A. I would say that people should read to their children all the Oz books by L. Frank Baum; they are a wonderful adventure. At the same time they could read Alice in Wonderland, although it’s a bit colder and semi-cynical about life. To boys the age of nine or ten I would suggest the Martian novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Tarzan of the Apes.
Q. How did Ray Bradbury divide himself up in the creation of Tom and Doug? That is, what percentage of Tom is Ray, and what percentage of Doug is Ray? —John
A. I’d have to say that it’s 50-50 between the two characters. Tom and Doug are the two halves of me, speaking to one another. I grew up with an older brother, Skip, but he was a super athlete and lived in an athlete’s world of swimming, playing football and baseball, and lifting weights, so there’s really none of his personality in the book.
Q. What’s your recipe for making dandelion wine? -- Scott
A. I have several recipes for making dandelion wine put away somewhere, and I cannot reach them at this time. I have ten bottles of dandelion wine in my pantry, sent to me from all over the world, including a bottle from Stockholm, if you can believe that; it’s hard to believe that summer lasts long enough there to have dandelions!
Q. To what degree does your faith in God or a higher power assist you in the creative process? —Edward
A. The fact is that I’m a product of creation. We have all these labels for the creation of the universe and the creation of the world that surrounds us and different religions have different labels that they put on this experience. The fact that I discovered I was alive and remained alive all this time gives me a faith in the process of being born and existing and enjoying being alive. If you can call that my faith, I guess that’s the best way to put it. I look at the total universe and am stunned and grateful for it.
Q. If you were planning a trip where would you visit? Has traveling influenced your writing career and if so what place made the biggest impression upon you? Joel
A. My favorite place to visit is Paris. I’ve gone there once a year for twenty-five years. Paris and all of France are incredible creations by the people who live there. Politically, France is a disaster. Their Revolution failed, with all of the important people having their heads chopped off, or else winding up in prison and then the country winded up with Napoleon, but aesthetically the country and the city are incredible.
You asked if traveling has influenced my career. There is an essay in my book Bradbury Speaks about Franceand its Revolution and its aesthetic accomplishments. I’m very proud of that essay and recommend that you look it up.
If I were planning a trip now, I would consider not only Paris and France, but I would also consider London because it is a theater city and my idea of great pleasure is being in London for ten nights and attending ten different plays--taking a chance and not necessarily reading the reviews by the critics. I love theater and London is the center of theater for the world.
Q. The images that you evoke in Farewell Summer are so realistic. Is it difficult to capture the essence that was life in American small towns at that time since so much has changed? How do you manage to make it so real, like life was at that time? – Pearl
A. It’s very easy to remember my life in Waukegan, Illinois, which became Green Town in my books and stories, because I lived running through that town when I was a child, going into the ravine almost every day on my way to school, or playing there in the summer in the creek and climbing the sides of the ravine and digging caves or wandering off to the lake. In the winter I’d go down the side of the ravine on my sled or my skis. Everything about that small town and the way I grew up in it with my family and my grandmother and grandfather next door, and going over to watch my grandmother cook and bake and be a wonderful wise woman, or sitting on the front porch with my grandfather eating Eskimo Pies–all of this is very easy to remember.
Q. Nearly 50 years later, was it more challenging for you to conjure the heart and spirit of a young boy? —Diane
A. All of my writing is easy. A lot of writers have a difficult time writing, but life bombards my ganglion and my ganglion transmits the message to my antennae, which are located somewhere in my ears and this message moves down my arms and into my fingertips and pours out like spirit from fountains or spigots. So writing is easy for me; it’s as easy as taking a deep breath and exhaling the wonder of the world.
Q. Are you a fan of Dylan Thomas's "Under Milkwood" and would you want to hear Farewell Summer produced for radio in a similar way? Are there any plans to create an audio adaptation of Farewell Summer? -- Laurie
A. In response to Dylan Thomas's "Under Milkwood" I have a recording which was made thirty years ago, so I'm very familiar with it. I was supposed to meet him when he was in town here, more than fifty years ago, but it never worked out.
When I was in Ireland, back in the early fifties, I was reading one of his books at the Royal Hibernian Hotel and there was a knock on the door. With his book in my hand I went to the door and opened it. The hotel maid handed me a newspaper with the headline: Dylan Thomas is Dead. A terrible way to discover his death, with his book in my hand.
Jennifer Brehl, Ray's editor, also answers a few questions:
Q. I'm sure this question has been asked, but will Farewell Summer be made into a movie? -- Edward, Floral City, FL
A. There are no current plans for this to be made into a movie.
Q. Who designed the cover for Farewell Summer? It's beautiful. Thanks. -- Melissa
A. The jacket was designed by Tom Lau, who worked with two images: an hourglass and a dandelion.