To many south county residents, Tony D’Souza is known for his well-versed reporting for the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers. His audience, however, extends way beyond the confines of our sparsely populated corner of California, for D’Souza is also the internationally renown author of two highly acclaimed novels, “Whiteman” and “The Konkans,” and the recipient of a long list of prestigious awards and fellowships.
Having spent the last six months living in Dunsmuir, D’Souza, his wife Jessyka, and their new born baby Gwen are moving to Florida, where Jessyka plans to attend graduate school, and D’Souza will be a stay-at-home dad and writer.
This coming Saturday night, Dec. 27, Tony D’Souza will be giving a reading at the Brown Trout Café in Dunsmuir at 6:30 p.m. The event, according to D’Souza, will consist of “a short reading, discussion of life in an African village, as well as a discussion of south Siskiyou County, especially Dunsmuir, news and politics.” 
Bio in brief
Born and raised in Chicago, D’Souza earned Masters degrees in writing from Hollins University and the University of Notre Dame. He served three years in the Peace Corps in West Africa, where he was a rural AIDS educator. It was this experience that fueled his first novel “Whiteman.”
In addition to his two books, D’Souza has contributed to many well-established publications, including The New Yorker, Playboy, Salon, Esquire, Outside, the O. Henry Awards, Best American Fantasy, McSweeney’s, Tin House, and Amazon. 
His long list of awards includes the Sue Kaufmann Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters for “Whiteman,” as well as a 2006 NEA Fellowship, a 2007 NEA Japan Friendship Fellowship, and a 2008 Guggenheim.
D’Souza has had a wide array of other travel experiences that include working on a kibbutz in Israel, living on the Japanese island of Hokkaido in Japan, as well as covering the high profile murder case of Eric Volz, an American tourist unjustly charged with murder in Nicaragua. D’Souza spent five months following this case, conducting interviews with Volz and others, and eventually writing a feature length article that appeared in Outside Magazine and subsequently earned him numerous journalism awards. 
“All the while, my heart remained in Dunsmuir,” D’Souza wrote in his cover letter to Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers. It was here that he lived after returning from his stint as a Peace Corps worker in war torn West Africa.  He wrote his first novel while living in the Dunsmuir landmark known as “the old mortuary.”
Interview with D’Souza
Q: What drew you back to Dunsmuir after a long stint of travel, writing, and speaking tours?
D’Souza: Having been all over the world, my favorite corner of it is Dunsmuir. I love all of the south county, but Dunsmuir in particular because of the river and the great architecture downtown. It was also an affordable place for me to live when I came back from Africa and was essentially broke. Bill Cartwright told me when I first came to town and was worrying about money that “you have to pay yourself for the clean air, you have to pay yourself for the clean water.” I still find that to be true.
Q: How did you come upon this area initially back in 2003 after returning from the Peace Corps?
D’Souza: I was having problems emotionally and psychologically dealing with what happened to me in Africa, and I was staying at my mother’s in Florida. I called a friend who had been in the Peace Corps with me and told him about the problems I was having. He was working for Head Start in the East Bay, and he flew me out to California. That weekend we drove up to visit his mother, who is retired in Bella Vista outside of Redding. She’d had a long career at Cal State LA and was teaching part-time at Shasta College. She introduced me to the Dean of the Language Arts division there, and he offered me a few classes. So I relocated from Florida, and on advice from my friend’s mother, who had lived in Dunsmuir for a few years, I drove up I-5 to see it. I knew as soon as I rounded that curve at Sweetbriar and saw Castle Crags that something good was going to happen; I knew as I drove through the downtown that I might want to live in Dunsmuir forever. I began to look for an apartment right away and within a couple of days had moved into The Mortuary. I lived there for nearly two years and wrote “Whiteman” there.
Q: What have been the highlights of your last six months in Siskiyou County?
D’Souza: I have loved covering the Nestle issue in McCloud and the Dunsmuir City Council. They are such exciting, important events, and you never know what is going to happen. It makes for great material to write about, and I get a ton of feedback from readers when the articles come out in the paper. I really enjoyed finding out about the Altoona Mine and getting permission from the EPA to drive up there for a tour. It was so remote; it was hard to believe that people once raised families there. I went back again recently to see how the EPA’s clean up effort had gone, and they had finished and left. It was that kind of quiet up there, that stillness… I mean, what was that like, to live up there in 1900?
Watching Air Force One land at the Redding airport was pretty neat, as was watching Bush emerge from it. There he was, a real person after all. I was so nervous that I would miss my shot because it took him all of five seconds to walk down the steps. But I just kept firing and got it. Getting permission to visit the Crystal Creek Boys Camp was great. I worked on that for a few months. Meeting so many people and finding out so much about our county – it’s just unbelievable how enriching the job has been.
But those were my work highlights. My real highlight was driving my wife Jessyka down the mountain on August 30 when she was in labor and watching the birth of my daughter Gwen a few hours later. Watching Gwen grow these past months, how she smiles at Jess and I, her laughter. Taking her to the river for the first time, taking her up the mountain. Pushing the stroller down the street in downtown Dunsmuir and saying hello to our neighbors. I love these places so much, and to bring my daughter to them… It makes me emotional. After Africa, I was deeply depressed. I found a way to survive my memories in Dunsmuir. So in a lot of ways I look at the mountain and the river and the town as having saved my life. I want Gwen to know that, and I want to say thanks to this place.  
Q: What drew you to the covering small town news?
D’Souza: The best thing about small town news is that you get feedback everywhere you go from people. People are always telling me “Good job” or “I loved that story.” But that is also the worst part of the job, too, because sometimes you have to write about the negative things, and then you get dirty looks in the supermarket, at the gas station. It can be uncomfortable. But that’s what the job is.
Q: Since your first novel was published, you have led the life that many aspiring writers romanticize: prestigious fellowships, world travel, book tours, and awards. What are some of the highlights of the past few years for you?
D’Souza: Nothing has been as satisfying as finishing my two books, putting down the pen after months and months of serious labor, and knowing the books were done. Some of the hoopla was fun and all the traveling and parties and meeting famous people was fun… I guess it does feel like a dream. That’s the best way to describe it, as a dream. They have open bars at all those parties and awards events and a lot of the time I was really nervous and drinking. It’s hard to be a nominee for big awards and everyone gets dressed up and Sean Penn comes over to shake your hand. Then they hold up the envelope and say “And the winner is…” I enjoy it more in hindsight. At the time, I was terrified. I was also on three or four planes a week for two and three months at a time. A lot of times, I didn’t even know where I was. I’m proud to have been given a Guggenheim fellowship. It feels very, very good to be recognized.
But in the end, I like the friends I had before all of that happened, and I’m glad that my friends are still my friends.   
Q: How is fatherhood treating you?
D’Souza: Best thing I’ve ever done.
Q: What do you do for fun when not reporting, writing, being a father, or  maintaining a relationship?
D’Souza: I love having friends stay over, cooking a big meal. I love swimming at Sims in the summer and seeing the birds at the Klamath Refuge in the fall. I garden ever since I grew my farm in Africa.
Q: Who are some of your favorite authors?
D’Souza: I love Hemingway. I love Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Twain, McCarthy. My favorite books are “The Great Gatsby” and “Huckleberry Finn.” I read a ton of poetry. My favorite poets are Mary Oliver and Elizabeth Bishop. I’ll read anything.
Q: What are you currently reading?
D’Souza: Right now, I am reading a lot of parenting articles.
Q: What inspired you to become a writer?
D’Souza: I grew up in Chicago and ran away to Alaska after high school. I started to write as a way to save my adventures once I left Alaska for good.
Q: What advice would you give young writers looking to make a career out of writing?
D’Souza: Read a lot. If you don’t love to read, you won’t build the vocabulary you need to be a writer. After that, develop a writing discipline. You have to put in the hours, day after day.
Q: What will you miss most about living in Dunsmuir?
D’Souza: The scenery. The mist in the trees. The sound of the river. Walking through downtown and saying hello to half a dozen people. And I’ll really miss feeling the feeling of contributing to a community.
Q: You said in an interview I read recently that you joined the Peace Corps, in part, to “voice (your) dissatisfaction with the continual growth capitalism.” What are your thoughts about the current state of the American economy and the impending Obama administration?
D’Souza: A number of times in Africa, I was in war situations where we were caught in the crossfire, were hiding, and we didn’t have water to drink or food to eat, one time for over a week. We didn’t know what would happen to us, and we were essentially powerless. The past six months have left me awake at night, wondering what is going to happen. You’d like to think that there is something you can do, but really there is very little. In the end, I think there will be a lot to be said for having had good intentions and having tried to do good. What more can we do?
Q: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
D’Souza: I’d be wondering what to do with my life.
Q: Where are you headed next and what’s the plan?
D’Souza: Jess starts at the University of South Florida in a few weeks, and I will be a stay-at-home dad and focused on writing a new book.
Q: Can we expect to see a novel set in a Dunsmuir-like small town?
D’Souza: Yes.