After changing majors four times as a college student, Bret Lott joined a list of renowned novelists as the author of an Oprah Book Club pick.
Lott read from his best-selling work Sept. 16 in a free campus event to benefit the Associated Writing Programs national networking organization.
Although Lott originally had hopes for a career in forestry, he is now the author of 12 books, with a 13th in the works. He is also a professor of English at the College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C.
Lott said that while he was an avid reader as a kid, he never thought he wanted to be a writer. Originally from Los Angeles. Lott started his college career in forestry at the University of Arizona in Flagstaff. He became discouraged when he saw that forestry school was less about nature and more about logging companies. From there, he went to California State University at Long Beach to study marine biology, but a bad grade in a physics class put a damper on those plans.
“I quit school and became an RC Cola salesman,” Lott said. After selling cola for a short time, he went back to school and majored in education before an influential teacher in a creative writing class made him rethink. He eventually earned a degree in English.
Lott said that since becoming a writer, he has realized what it means to be an author.
“I finally realized that being an author is not about me writing about characters, it’s about the characters. I write out of love for these people.”
He said the novel chosen for the Oprah Book Club, “Jewel,” is roughly based on the life and times of his grandmother.
His latest work, tentatively titled “Dead Low Tide,” is the sequel to his eighth book, “The Hunt Club” which is a mystery thriller. Lott has dabbled in nearly every genre of writing and has written a memoir, “Fathers, Sons, and Brothers,” as well as a writing guide called “Before We Get Started.”
Lott was one of several writers to visit UNK in September. Fred Arroyo, named one of the top ten new Latino authors, spoke on Sept. 14, and U.S. poet Laureate from 2001-2006 Billy Collins spoke on Sept. 27.
The Reynolds Series continues at 8 p.m. Oct. 21 with award-winning poet, Jon Davis, in the Choral Room of the Fine Arts Building. UNK’s own Reynolds Scholars will present their work at 3 p.m. on Nov. 11 in the Choral Room, and Pulitzer Prize winner Natasha Trethewey will read at 8 p.m. Nov. 18 in the Recital Hall of the Fine Arts Building.
A look at Lott
- Bret Lott's 1991 novel "Jewel" was selected for the Oprah Book Club in 1999.
- The book was ranked the 1,069,713th best-selling book, but jumped to No. 1 the day after he landed on Oprah.
- Lott studied forestry, marine biology and education and also worked as an RC Cola salesman before earning a degree in English and becoming a writer.
- Lott writes everything from memoir to mystery.