ATX TV fest: Noah Hawley talks about new novel, ‘Fargo’

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Beau Willimon, left, and Noah Hawley at the ATX Television Festival. (Charles Ealy)
Beau Willimon, left, and Noah Hawley at the ATX Television Festival. (Charles Ealy)

Beau Willimon, left, and Noah Hawley at the ATX Television Festival. (Charles Ealy)

Austin’s Noah Hawley, who has a new thriller titled “Before the Fall,” sat down with Beau Willimon, the creator of TV’s “House of Cards,” on Friday to discuss Hawley’s new book at the ATX Television Festival. Hawley, who’s also the showrunner for the FX series “Fargo,” had a few choice words about doing double duty as a novelist and TV creator. Here are five highlights from the session.

1. Hawley says he has resisted restricting himself to one medium, like television, because of a simple fact: “If you do just one thing, then that thing owns you.” So he splits his time pursuing various passions, like writing movies, writing teleplays and writing novels.

2. Since he’s the showrunner, he also has a few tips on how to manage up, i.e., how to handle studio or corporate executives, especially when you’re trying to create art for a corporation, which is a bit subversive in itself. A notable piece of advice: Ask yourself: “How do I get what I want while making them think it’s what they want?”

3. Hawley, who’s a father of two, says he sees stories as an “empathy delivery device” for his kids. That’s why he thinks it’s important to tell stories to kids — especially stories that feature people “who aren’t like you.”

4. He always stresses characters when writing TV shows and novels. “If you can solve the characters, you can solve the mystery” of a novel or show, he says.

5. He’s intrigued by characters who have great power or wealth – and especially how they act. “The quality of a person is what they do with their power,” he says. “You can use it punch people down or lift them up.” And there’s a particular character in “Before the Fall” who pushes people down. He’s a TV commentator for a right-wing network.

If you’re interested in buying a signed copy of “Before the Fall,” the book is available at Trinity Hall, 311 E. 5th St., throughout the festival, which runs through the weekend.


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