Eric Nisenson, 56, of Malden, was an editor of college textbooks until 1980, when he began writing books of his own. He now is at work on his sixth, about the tropicalia music movement (also known as tropicalismo) in '60s Brazil. Previous titles include "Ascension: John Coltrane and His Quest" and " 'Round About Midnight," a portrait of Miles Davis. Nisenson is a 2002 Guggenheim fellow; the stipend is allowing him to proceed with the book without having a publisher.
"I always wanted to write, since I was a kid, but like all writers, I was afraid I wouldn't get published.
"Right now I'm working on an overview of the entire book. I needed the Guggenheim to do the research because it's a huge amount. Once you start, then you realize you have to do a lot more to really understand it. I have to go beyond just Brazilian music, and it's just endless. Sometimes I think, `Why did I become a writer?'
"I'm going to try to interview the musicians as they come through this country, because they do perform here. Caetano Veloso was one of them - the leader, really - and Gilberto Gil.
"In the late '60s, Brazil had an oppressive, fascistic government, and the tropicalia movement rose in opposition. They combined Dylan and the Beatles with traditional Brazilian music and did everything they could do to outrage the government. The movement was basically killed by the '70s by the government, but these people retained their beliefs. People were eventually exiled to Europe, and when they returned they were treated as national heroes. . . . Some people, like Milton Nascimento, just left, without being exiled.
"So the next part is doing interviews, and that's going to take a long time and be difficult, but obviously essential. That's the first stage of doing the book. It's the biggest stage.
"A lot of writing is just thinking. That's the hardest thing about writing. If you're working on a book, it just commands your total mind. You can't go to sleep at night because you're thinking, `I should have put this there, or done that there.' It drives you nuts.
"When you interview somebody, you think, `Why did I ask this there?' Or `Why didn't I ask that there?' And then I have to bother them again. But that's what you have to do as a writer.
"When I write a book, the easiest part is the first draft because you just write what comes to mind. But the next part is the toughest, the rewriting. You change it endlessly, until the deadline. I'm never satisfied, but you come to a point when it's due, and you turn it in."