©2019 by Belmont Story Review.

AUTHOR INTERVIEWS

Eric Blix

What does literary success look like to you?

“Literary success” probably has something to do with publication. I published a story collection, Physically Alarming Men, about a year and a half ago with a university press, so that's probably a form of success. Mostly, though, I feel like a piece of writing is most successful when it still surprises me long after I've written it. A number of stories in the collection do that.

What is your ideal writing space?

I like to write in my home office—at my desk with the cat in my lap.

What is one piece of advice you would give an aspiring author?

I think it's important to learn the history of your chosen tradition. Whether you write literary realism, science fiction, bizarro horror, whatever, it's important to know how writers before you have conceived, shaped, and broken the genre, because you are always implicitly (and very often explicitly) in conversation with that tradition. A person doesn't need a formal degree to gain historical perspective, but they do need to read a lot. Reading can also be a stimulant. A rich imagination will take a person's writing at least as far as their ability to employ the elements of craft—and I will suggest even further.

Do you have any writing habits?

When I'm deep into a project, I have a fairly rigid practice. I usually have to write in the morning before my mind is too cluttered with the stuff of daily life. I try to go for at least two or three hours every day. Sometimes it's more, sometimes less. Regardless, I try to stop every day at a moment of forward movement, when I have some sense of what I want or need to accomplish the next day. Lately, my process has involved a lot of outside reading and appropriation from source materials, so my “writing” time is often spent researching, then arranging and rearranging things I've already written and things I've interpolated from outside sources.

What was an experience where you learned knowledge has power?

This is a hard question to answer. Cambridge Analytica might be one example, but so is every book that I've ever gained anything from. Multiple sorts of power that for various reasons ensure their own success and failure simultaneously.

What are some of your favorite writing tropes that could be considered cliche?

I have a pretty straightforward affection for westerns, even corny ones. Trouble arrives, and the hero, always mythical and therefore fully revealed, resolves it. I find this tranquilizing. That said, it's an incredibly problematic genre in terms of race, gender, sexuality, ability, and the problem of who holds the cultural authority to depict history—as well as the problem created by that problem, which is the problem of whose history is worthy of being depicted.

 

What do you want to be remembered for?

I'd rather not be remembered, I think.

What are you currently working on?

I've spent the last couple years on a novel-length collage text, part novel, part lyric essay, part archival facsimile, etc. In it, I play with the idea and rhetoric of the Great Experiment—the United States as a divinely chosen land destined for everlasting global supremacy, but also one deliberately constructed by a population of industrious manufacturers whose expertise places them in harmony with the redemptive materials of the continent. This Great image, like a cartographer's map speculating the Northwest Passage, or a biographical depiction of the genius of wireless telegraphy toiling in his workshop, or a cowboy riding into the sunset of a Hollywood western, does not correspond to any reality, but is of course the self-image of the collective that imagined it. I see myself working in the play of contradictions between image and experience, nature and machine, insidious romance and brutal empiricism, the desire for a lost simplicity and the unstoppable charge of progress characterizing our country's development and present day anxieties. This is all very melodramatic, but it's a melodramatic project, and I feel like a melodramatic lunatic when writing it.

Eric Blix is the author of the short story collection, Physically Alarming Men (Stephen F. Austin State University Press). His writing has appeared in such journals and anthologies as Best Small Fictions 2018 (selected by Aimee Bender), The Collagist, Caketrain, The Pinch, and others. He earned his MFA at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Currently, he lives in Salt Lake City, where he studies in the PhD program in creative writing at the University of Utah.

 

Ace Boggess

What does literary success look like to you?

 

I used to think it was about great books that live forever. Later, I thought it was about just earning enough money from writing to be able to live and write more. I had to reevaluate these things. I wrote of book of poems in prison, published most of the pieces in journals while I was locked up, and got my acceptance for the whole collection on the day I got out. I’ll take that. Looking back, yeah, I’ll take it.

 

What is your ideal writing space?

 

I find I write a lot in bed these days. Used to be at a corner table in a restaurant/bar called Calamity Café, which was the only place I ever felt at home. I could write there for hours, drinking coffee and pausing for weird conversations. Since they closed, bed’s the next most comfortable place.

 

What is one piece of advice you would give an aspiring author?

 

Learn the rules before you break them.

 

Do you have any writing habits?

 

I always read for about half an hour or so before I write. It’s a habit left over from when I was a drug addict. I used to take my pills and then read until they kicked in. Then I’d write. I still read first now, and it focuses my brain. Pavlovian training, I guess.

 

What was an experience where you learned knowledge has power?

 

I’m not so sure it does. Ignorance still has the numbers.

 

What are some of your favorite writing tropes that could be considered cliche?

 

I’m still fond of scenes involving one-on-one barroom conversations. They’re extremely cliched, but I love those scenes.

 

What do you want to be remembered for?

 

The Nobel Prize would be nice, but figuring that’s out, I’d be happy to remembered at all. Most of us won’t be. I’ll keep trying, though. Will you?

 

What are you currently working on?

Poetry and short stories mostly. Also, trying to sell a handful of novels, a couple of short-story collections, and quite a few new poetry manuscripts. So, I could guess you could say I’m working more on the business end of things. I have too many manuscripts and not enough presses to submit to that don’t charge ridiculous reading fees (ex-con poets aren’t known for having that kind of money lying around). I keep firing, though. It’s all I know how to do.

Ace Boggess is author of the novel A Song Without a Melody (Hyperborea Publishing, 2016) and two books of poetry, most recently, The Prisoners (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2014). Forthcoming is a third poetry collection: Ultra Deep Field (Brick Road). His recent fiction appears in Notre Dame Review, Lumina, and New Plains Review. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia.

 

Les Bohem

What does literary success look like to you?

 

My day job is as a working screenwriter, so there is a certain dream of writing what I want to write, rather than what someone else wants me to write.  An uptown problem, to be sure. I have a decent amount of success but it ain’t literary. Writing at its best for me is about naming my unnameable demons. About posing questions and then exploring them. For me, literary success then would be being encouraged to do just that.  

What is your ideal writing space?

 

I like coffee shops and hotel rooms, even though I have an office.  There’s a hotel in New York City with closet-sized rooms and a small desk past which, through the window, you can see the Empire State Building. I’m writing this there. But I also like my office at home with a cat on my keyboard.

 

What is one piece of advice you would give an aspiring author? 

 

To write.  To write as much as you possibly can.

Do you have any writing habits? 

 

Procrastination.  Coffee.

 

What was an experience where you learned knowledge has power? 

 

My best writing comes from a place of ignorance, NOT knowledge.  If I knew a thing, I wouldn’t need to write about it.

 

What are some of your favorite writing tropes that could be considered cliche? 

 

I hate boilerplate writing.  Character descriptions that serve no purpose.  Badly placed metaphor. Smug writing. My own tropes – I say “and then” way to often. I finish a piece and then I got back over it and to an “and-then-ectomy.”  I have to curb a tendency to over-explain and to say the same thing in two or three different ways.

 

What do you want to be remembered for? 

 

Good work.  Having named at least one of the demons I mentioned earlier.  And connection – having someone somewhere say, “I always felt that, but I never could put it into words.”

 

What are you currently working on? 

 

In my day job, I’m working on an adaptation of the podcast LifeAfter for AMC and a limited series about the Donner Party for NatGeo.  I’m doing a last draft of a new novel that deals with our desperate need to name, to find reasons. If it works, I’ll have a new answer to the question about literary success. It’s all about naming those demons.

Les Bohem has written a lot of movies and TV shows including Twenty Bucks, Daylight, Dante’s Peak, The Alamo and the mini-series, Taken, which he wrote and executive produced with Steven Spielberg. and for which he won an Emmy award.   He used to play in some bands – and has had songs recorded by Emmylou Harris, Randy Travis, Freddy Fender, Steve Gillette, Johnette Napolitano (of Concrete Blonde), and Alvin (of the Chipmunks). His new novel, Junk, read by John Waters, is the Audible original for March 2019. His first solo album, Moved to Duarte, was released last year to rave reviews and absolutely no sales or downloads.

 

Kate Buckley

What does literary success look like to you?

 

Writing a poem or story that changes me and that—I hope—will move others. And…still feeling that way a decade or three from now.
 

What is your ideal writing space?

 

Somewhere with awful wi-fi. Though, truth be told, I normally write in bed, propped up on a raft of pillows, my spaniel curled beside me. I wouldn’t say no to one of those overwater bungalows in Moorea though!

 

What is one piece of advice you would give an aspiring author?

 

Read. Read widely and agnostically. Read the very best authors you can get your hands on—across multiple genres. You can learn more from careful reading than from any manual or MFA program on the planet.
 

Do you have any writing habits?

 

Yes. I have a terrible habit of not finishing things! Luckily, I also have the good habit of putting something away when I have finished it, and letting it breathe on its own for a while before coming back to it and reading it again with the fresh—dare I say, cold—eyes of a stranger.
 

What was an experience where you learned knowledge has power?

 

I’m pretty sure I learned this as a kid—probably lording it over my long-suffering younger sister, but lately it’s when someone attempts to intimidate me in business (I run a branding and premium domains firm: BuckleyMedia.com). Because of my extensive research and knowledge of my field, I’m not only able to see through their tactics, but to further my position as well—gaining more ground. Which, let’s be honest, feels pretty awesome.
 

What are some of your favorite writing tropes that could be considered cliche?

 

Any trope, when overdone, can be considered a cliche. I liken it to being a chef. A talented cook can take a done-to-death ingredient and breathe new life into it—given the right technique! That said, my favorite writing trope has to be Fish out of Water (story of my life!).
 

What do you want to be remembered for?

 

Doing my bit to help people remember that we are all connected, all adored and valuable, love is a practice worth perfecting, and joy is our birthright.
 

What are you currently working on?

 

A work of nonfiction called “Reclaiming Joy,” a collection of short stories called “Just the Person I Was Hoping to See,” and a third book of poetry tentatively titled “Memento.”

Kate Buckley's work has appeared in The Adirondack Review, Bellingham Review, Belmont Story Review, The Cafe Review, Chaparral, The Heartland Review, North American Review, Poetry Foundation, Pop Art: An Anthology of Southern California Poetry, Rattle, Shenandoah, Silk Road Review, Slipstream, and many others. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University and is the author of A Wild Region (Moon Tide Press), named a Midwest Book Review Selection, and Follow Me Down (Tebot Bach). A four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Kate's awards include a Gabehart Prize and the North American Review's James Hearst Poetry Prize. Her short story, "The Gods of Flight," was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.

 

John Francis Istel

What does literary success look like to you?

 

A suave gentle centaur, with clipped and polished toenails, sipping a single malt by the seashore, scaring all the guests at the nearby resort.

 

What is your ideal writing space?

 

My imagination. As for physical space, a small cabin in the woods near Quebec, with a table, an electrical outlet and a chair.

 

What is one piece of advice you would give an aspiring author?

 

Write wildly and without fear because you can always--and probably will--revise and revise and revise.

 

Do you have any writing habits?

 

Procrastinating.

 

What was an experience where you learned knowledge has power?

 

I was told by an instructor before my first graduate teaching assignment in the City University of New York system to remember that everyone knows more than you do. He meant my students may not have read Flaubert or Sheridan, might not know who Martin Luther King or Mayakovsky were, but they know other important stuff, like what street or subway entrance to avoid if you don’t want to get robbed. Moral of the story, which I’ve seen reinforced constantly: Everybody has knowledge with power.

What are some of your favorite writing tropes that could be considered cliche?

 

Stories that deal with dementia-riddled parents; middle-aged white Vanyas full of regrets; falling in love.

 

What do you want to be remembered for?

 

Loving mercy, seeking justice, walking humbly… and having a twinkle in my eye.

 

What are you currently working on?

 

“The Suit”: a historical novel set in the U.S. in the early 1900s exploring the roots of the American corporate anti-Semitism and racism espoused by wealthy powerful elites like Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh (and their progeny today) by following the life of a self-made millionaire clothing manufacturer who falls in love with one of his models and then with these hateful ideas.

John Francis Istel has published stories in such publications as Weave, WordRiot, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Brooklyn Free Press, Rappahannock Review, Helen: A Literary Magazine, and Soundings Review. His poetry has appeared in New Letters, Off the Coast, Marathon, Gyroscope, Cathexis Northwest Press, Up the Staircase (Pushcart Prize nominee, 2015), and others. For many years, he worked as an arts editor and wrote about theater for The Atlantic, Elle, The Village Voice, and elsewhere. He earned an MFA from New York University, where he also taught; lives in Brooklyn, where he curates The Word Cabaret, a reading series in Red Hook; and teaches on Manhattan's Lower East Side at New Design High School.

 

F. Daniel Rzicznek

What does literary success look like to you?

 

Literary success looks like the wiggling tails of my two Labradors in the morning when they first wake up. Almost every day, usually before it's light, I take them out while my wife scoops food into their bowls. After they eat, we all go back to bed for an hour or two. The dogs settle into the knowledge that the pack has lived through another night, that their familiar patterns, or some variation of them, will again continue. So, I'm like my dogs. Poetry gets me out of bed in the morning, gives my life a pattern: reading it, teaching it, writing it, thinking about it. Repeat until death. Literary success.

What is your ideal writing space?

 

My kitchen table. I have a good, sturdy desk in my study, but the room itself is a bit cramped and the desk is usually covered in signs of "real" work: lists of poems to send or resend to journals, papers to grade, to-do lists, etc. The kitchen table is almost always bare, clean, open, and the kitchen itself has wonderful light at all times of day. It's a lovely room to write in. Many kitchens are.
 

What is one piece of advice you would give an aspiring author?

 

Spend more time reading than writing.

Do you have any writing habits?

 

I write my poems longhand with black ink in college-ruled spiral bound notebooks. I date and number my drafts. I usually draft until I have a version I want to see typed out. (In the same notebooks, I also copy down poems or passages of prose I've read and admired or want to better understand.) Good first drafts usually arrive in the late morning or early afternoon. Successful revisions usually happen late-night.
 

What was an experience where you learned knowledge has power?

 

When I first started teaching college-level English as a graduate student in the Fall of 2003. Walking in on the first day, I was impossibly nervous. However I soon found that my students were likely to defer to my every suggestion, even the erroneous ones. I realized then that teaching is a precarious gift, one I just can't take lightly because while it rewards me for innovation and compassion, it also punishes me for my own laziness and sloppiness. This knowledge has given me the power to see my students as individuals, and to teach from a place of empathy and support. My respect for knowledge ("book knowledge" and experiential knowing combined) has, I hope, taught me to teach well, to teach openly, defenses down.
 

What are some of your favorite writing tropes that could be considered cliche?

 

I guess employing the pathetic fallacy as well as anthropomorphism would fit this for my work. The two ideas are very similar to my thinking--not identical, but closely related, flowing from the same impulse. I don't actually believe that the pathetic fallacy is as fallacious as its name lets on. You won't convince me, for example, that the solitary goose honking across the storm-troubled sky of late November isn't lonely. I'm prone to perceive consciousness/feeling everywhere. Poets such as Joy Harjo, Charles Wright, and many others, intuit complexities of consciousness through landscape and animals in their poems. For me, it's as much about seeing the human in the "wild" as it is seeing the wild in the human.

What do you want to be remembered for?

 

Not to mock your question, but I want to be remembered as having been a good son and brother, a good husband, a good teacher, a good colleague, a good friend. If any of my poems are remembered, that's great, but the odds seem against that. It's easy for me to delude myself into feelings of importance when I'm alone at the kitchen table, chiseling the poem into my notebook as if it were the word of god. But if I go to AWP and look around, what will I see? A million other laptop jockeys who work just as hard, probably harder, than I do. A lot of poems are being written and published around the world right this second. I'm fooling myself if I think my own work is more than just a drop in a bucket that's soon to be dumped into the ocean. There's so much interesting work appearing right now, no one will ever be able to read all of it. This makes me glad.
 

What are you currently working on?

 

I'm currently involved with MFA thesis work at my university, so other than a few poems that I've scribbled out, I'm not doing much with my own stuff at this exact moment. I do have a manuscript in motion that combines poems from two different periods of writing. It has been interesting to bring together pieces that were written five or more years apart. I'm hoping to get deeper into it this coming summer and fall. I've also been looking at a big crowd of prose poems written over the last 17 years with plans to bring together a selection (an "unselection," you might say, since so many were rejected in their original forms) that spans my career so far. That's more for fun than anything right now, but usually that's a good sign.

F. Daniel Rzicznek's books of poetry are Settlers (Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press), Divination
Machine
(Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press) and Neck of the World (Utah State University Press),
and he is co-editor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry: Contemporary Poets in
Discussion and Practice
(Rose Metal Press). His poems have appeared in Kenyon Review, West
Branch, Blackbird, Colorado Review,
and Notre Dame Review. He currently teaches and directs
the Creative Writing program at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.

 

Beth Kander

What does literary success look like to you?

 

It's a moving target. I think the simplest answer is "having writing be my full-time career," but that's a high bar. Continued publication, productions, and forward momentum is a more consistent measure of success . . . and will continue to be vital once writing is my full-time career.

What is your ideal writing space?

 

I'm a coffee shop writer. I like a snug corner, a warm mug, the hum of background noise, and some distance from my regular desk, my laundry singing its siren songs, etc.

What is one piece of advice you would give an aspiring author?

 

Make time every day to read AND to write; doing both is what will make you a better author and literary citizen.

Do you have any writing habits?

 

I'm not sure if this question means real-life habits (i.e. I tend to bullet point out my chapters, that sort of thing) or habits that show up on the page (i.e. I tend to write protagonists who are heavy on the sarcasm) . . . but the parenthetical examples are both true!

What was an experience where you learned knowledge has power?

 

Being at an event for one of my books and being able to answer the questions about my research process, what I gleaned from it, and generally being able to speak somewhat-articulately about the "real aspects" of the work (whew).

What are some of your favorite writing tropes that could be considered cliche?

I know how much some people hate the "maybe it was all a dream" trope, but I think when done well it gives so much creative freedom and the chance to work magic into the lives of everyday, real-world characters. Of course, when done poorly, it's incredibly irritating. I think that's true of most tropes and cliches—yes, they're overdone, but that's because there's something intrinsically engaging about those ideas. So they WILL be done again . . . but if you dive into those familiar waters, make sure you're wearing an interesting new swim suit!

What do you want to be remembered for?

 

When I teach writing workshops, I love having students write six-word-storyteller memoirs for themselves . . . i.e. in six words, what do they want to be remembered for as a writer? Here's mine: Changed minds, split sides, healed hearts.

What are you currently working on?

 

A middle grade novel wherein magic is a balm for grief; a play set in wildly different worlds; and edits for the third book in my dystopian trilogy Original Syn—the second book comes out in a few months, the final one next year!

Beth Kander is a Chicago-based writer with Southern and Midwestern roots. An award-winning playwright, she has scripts represented by Stage Rights (Los Angeles) and Chicago Dramaworks. In addition to plays, Kander writes novels, screenplays, and children's literature. This summer, she is defending her thesis to complete her MFA in Creative Writing at Mississippi University for Women with a dual concentration in fiction and playwriting; she also has a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor of Arts from Brandeis University. Beth lives with her husband, daughter, and two ridiculous old rescue dogs.

 

Evelyn Somers

What does literary success look like to you?

When I was in my thirties. I was envious of writers who were the darlings of the moment. That would have been “success” to me then. Now it looks more like hitting your stride and writing with all your strength and ability, whatever you were meant to write.

 

What is your ideal writing space?

We raised three kids in an old house that was, and still is, a renovation project. There was no luxury of solitude a perfect space, so I don’t even think about it. I can write anywhere that it’s possible to think without too much interference. Longhand, on any blank sheet or part of a sheet. Or keyboard. There can’t be music playing because I need to hear the rhythm of the language.

 

What is one piece of advice you would give an aspiring author?

Keep your eyes on your own work and keep setting the bar higher. The bar is inside you, not outside.

 

Do you have any writing habits?

I was almost a poet, so I spend a lot of time on language. I can’t say how many times I reread a chapter or a story.  Usually I can only find the right moves through the language. I don’t know if that’s a habit. Sometimes I have to eat something high-carb to get started—candy or bread. It’s like a signal to get going.  I drink a great deal of coffee to stay focused.

 

What was an experience where you learned knowledge has power?

Let me turn that on its head a bit. When I was a girl, I wanted to know everything—I believed that knowledge was power even at eight or so—this was early grade school.  I started reading my way through the encyclopedia. I was taking the long view, realizing it would be a while till I knew everything. And then (this was the ’60s), I started noticing that all the pictures of important people who had done something great were of men. And I gave it up. I had recognized that there are other factors besides knowledge that confer power--of course, it depends on how you define power.

 

What are some of your favorite writing tropes that could be considered cliche?

 

I tend not to like those.  If someone says something about murdering your darlings or showing, not telling, I politely ignore it, and the person falls a notch in my estimation—sorry!

 

What do you want to be remembered for?

That’s a strange thing to think about, for someone like me, who’s older. I want my children to be able to draw strength from my memory, if they need that, remembering that there was someone who loved them unconditionally, and her spirit is still around. I hope people will read things I wrote, but the writing is the process as much as the final product. I believe in an afterlife and look forward to being “fully known,” as one is not in this life.

 

What are you currently working on?

I have two books in progress, a collection of linked stories, and a novel. The linked stories are a kind of “feminist theology,” in which God and the devil take female form and engage in a centuries-long battle over the lives of a few select, musical families in the Midwest. Speculative, obviously. The novel is a comedy about an empty-nester and a cat. It is very weird and nothing like Harry and Tonto, if you know that film.

Evelyn Somers has been the associate editor of the Missouri Review for many years. She is also part of a collective of writers and editors who publish Bloom, an online showcase for writers and artists who bloomed after the usual age. Her fiction has appeared in Copper Nickel, Florida Review, Southwest Review, Georgia Review, the Collagist, Potomac Review, the Writing Disorder, among others. She lives and writes in Boonville, Missouri.

 

Caitlin Hamilton Summie

What does literary success look like to you?

To me, literary success is receiving good reviews as well as amazing responses from readers. Also, I just won The Phillip H. McMath Post Publication Book Award for my story collection, TO LAY TO REST MY GHOSTS, and that was both a happy surprise and validating.

 

What is your ideal writing space?

As a working mother, I am grateful for any free space to write! But I usually write at my work desk, which is a serious place, meant for focusing and concentration. The desk is surrounded by art that my kids have made, though, so it is also a place filled with color and joy.

 

What is one piece of advice you would give an aspiring author?

I would advise new writers to write. Not to talk about it, but to sit down and write. Also, I would remind them that perseverance matters.

 

Do you have any writing habits?

I have no writing habits, as I have to fit my writing in between job and family. I write when I can, where I can.

What was an experience where you learned knowledge has power?

As a book publicist of twenty plus years, as my book’s publication approached, I reminded myself to live in gratitude. I’ve seen a lot of superb writers receive too little recognition. I’ve helped some scrappy publishers, over years of work, launch writers who are now big (Emily St. John Mandel, for one). But all writers begin in the trenches of that first publication, that first book. It isn’t easy to get published or to promote, but I have watched and helped many before me, and I knew the path I had chosen. And along the way, I’ve been grateful for every review, every invitation to read, and every opportunity, such as this one.

What are some of your favorite writing tropes that could be considered cliche?

Although I don’t tend to write many stories where a happy ending makes sense, I think I always aim for that possibility, that hope. A happy ending might seem like cliché to some, but for my characters, often it is hard won.

What do you want to be remembered for?

I want to be remembered for writing exceptional prose and deep, emotional stories about characters one remembers.

What are you currently working on?

I’m finishing a novel-in-stories, for adult readers. I am one draft in! I am revising a middle grade novel, which has been in process for seven years. Also, I’m trying to place a completed and edited picture book.

Caitlin Hamilton Summie earned an MFA with Distinction from Colorado State University, and her short stories have been published in Beloit Fiction Journal, Wisconsin Review, Puerto del Sol, Mud Season Review, Belmont Story Review, Hypertext Magazine, South85 Journal, and Long Story, Short. Her first book, a short story collection called LAY TO REST OUR GHOSTS, was published in August 2017 by Fomite. It won the fourth annual Phillip H. McMath Book Award, won Silver in the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award for Short Stories, and was included in 35 Over 35’s Annual List in 2017. Most recently her poetry was published in The Literary Nest. She spent many years in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Colorado before settling with her family in Knoxville, Tennessee. She co-owns the book marketing firm, Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity, founded in 2003. Find her online at caitlinhamiltonsummie.com.

 

Stephen Wingate

What does literary success look like to you?

 

When I was younger I focused—obsessed is a better word—on having a New York-centric career: big publisher, praise by all the right critics, a free pass to the best cocktail parties. It took me too long to realize that this was unlikely because of both my material and my personality. I spent some time away from fiction and wrote other things to recalibrate, and now my vision of success doesn’t revolve around externals so much. I want an audience, of course, but success now feels more about whether or not I’m being emotionally true in my writing, both in the big picture and on a day-to-day basis. If I don’t have that, no amount of externals can make up for it.
 

What is your ideal writing space?

 

In my fantasy life, it’s a quiet, secluded little cabin with lots of windows onto nature. It looks out over a body of water on one side and a forest on the other. In reality, all I need is a good chair and a pair of noise-reducing headphones, which I bought when I became a father and still consider to be the smartest thing I’ve ever purchased. When there’s chaos, my headphones let me create sanctuary.
 

What is one piece of advice you would give an aspiring author?

 

When you’re starting out, write a lot until you can’t live without writing and build your life around the habit instead of waiting for life to give you writing time. Writing is a practice, just like praying or marathoning. You develop any practice over time. The more you write, the stronger your imagination gets and the better it’s able to tell you that one particular piece is the right one to pursue.
 

Do you have any writing habits?

 

I like to wake up, have a cup of coffee, and write for two or three hours each morning—though if I’m really feeling it I might go five. Once I became a father I had to be more flexible because that ritual stopped being perpetually available to me, so I learned to think in half-hour chunks rather than writing days. I draft and revise a piece on my laptop until it’s time to attack it with a red pen, and finally I read it aloud a few times to see if the words feel right. If we only read our words on the page, it’s easier to let emotional mistruths slip—but the mouth and ears catch lies better.
 

What was an experience where you learned knowledge has power?

 

The first time I knew that someone was lying but didn’t tell on them. I’m sure this happened very early on within my family, as it does for most of us. But I try not to think or worry about power too much these days. Power is the original addiction of humanity, and there are so many people around who can’t get enough power that they’re tearing the fabric of the world.
 

What are some of your favorite writing tropes that could be considered cliche?
 

I rely too much on father-son relationships to drive narratives—natural for me because my dad died quite dramatically when I was ten and left a big hole in my psyche. It has been a huge theme in my work, especially since my sons started approaching the age I was when my father died. I hope that by the time my next novel is all finished, I’ll be through working with that subject matter and ready to chew on other bones.

 

What do you want to be remembered for?

 

The stretch of work I’m writing and publishing right now feels like my strongest. I took a lot of time, in both my creative and personal life, to get out of my own way, and it finally feels—here in my fifties!—like I’ve hit a groove. For the longest time I resisted committing to the novel form, but now that I have one coming out it’s all I really want to work on. So I look at the coming decade as the time I’ll write the novels that will define me.
 

What are you currently working on?
 

My current novel, which I’m getting ready to send to my publisher in the next few months, is set in South Dakota, where I live now. It’s about a couple struggling to make their lives work in the face of personal demons: grief, a prescription medication habit, and (on the man’s side) a legacy of domestic violence. He’s from Boston, she’s from LA, and they end up in South Dakota to make a last stand together and become real human beings before they fade away. It’s very different from my first novel—a magical realist coming-of-age story on the high plains of Colorado, set against a politically-charged background—but ideally readers will see the same authorial mind behind it.  

Steven Wingate’s books include the novel Of Fathers and Fire, forthcoming April 2019 from the University of Nebraska Press as part of its Flyover Fiction series, and the short story collection Wifeshopping, which won the Bakeless Prize in Fiction from Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. His interactive media projects have been exhibited in Singapore, Hong Kong, Norway, Canada, and the UK. His writing on faith and culture has appeared in such venues as Image Journal’s “Good Letters” blog, The Cresset, The Windhover, The Other Journal, Talking Writing, and of course Belmont Story Review. He is an associate professor at South Dakota State University and associate editor at Fiction Writers Review. Visit stevenwingate.com.

 

DJ Tyrer

What does literary success look like to you?

 

Some days, when the rejections are piling up, success looks like something that happens to other people, but then I shake myself out my funk and realise that I’m actually doing well compared to so many writers (including others more talented than myself). To be read and enjoyed is the true criterion of literary success, and I’m lucky to have had my work published in diverse places and for it to have been enjoyed by many readers.


What is your ideal writing space?

My ideal writing space would be a spacious desk with a comfortable chair and a window out over some inspiring view. Lacking those, I mostly work at night when I won’t be disturbed and can let my mind wander freely.


What is one piece of advice you would give an aspiring author?

The one I always come back to is “write!” Yes, it is ridiculously obvious, but I’ve known several truly brilliant writers who had the potential for great success yet didn’t produce much work. Often they were held back by their doubts over the quality of their writing, sometimes they were waiting for a flash of inspiration that never came, and sometimes they procrastinated too much on perfecting their ideas to actually produce something. If you want to be a writer, you have to write. Do it.


Do you have any writing habits?

I follow the same routine most days. Mornings are for mundane things like shopping or catching up on sleep. The afternoon is for the practical side of my writing career (sending out submissions, reading emails, completing contracts) or my editorial duties. Then, after an early-evening break, the evening and night are for planning, writing and redrafting.

 

What was an experience where you learned knowledge has power?

Not a single experience, but I was raised to be very aware of the importance of knowledge and also the way that the control and distortion of it (‘fake news’, if you will) were the basis of power. Research, debate and critical thinking have always been core elements of my life.


What are some of your favorite writing tropes that could be considered cliche?

I’m always skeptical when people talk about cliched writing tropes in some objective sense – certainly, a lot of editorial lists of ‘things we’ve seen too often’ seem to apply to submissions rather than published work (probably meaning it’s not a lack of originality that is the real problem, but poor handling). The real danger is in repeating yourself – if you return to the same themes or ideas repeatedly, you have to work extra hard to find something new to say. I like to experiment with different styles, genres and themes, which hopefully breaks up my favourites enough that I’m coming to them afresh each time.


What do you want to be remembered for?

My writing or my small press (both, if posterity is feeling kind!). Of course, with so many other wonderful writers and presses out there, I don’t know if either will be remembered down the years, but it won’t be for lack of effort.


What are you currently working on?


Having finally completed a project that’s been on the back-burner for around five years, I’ll be completing my next Yellow Mythos novella and the long-promised Mer Behnam Codies booklet. I’m also working on ideas for some novels – it’s a case of choosing one to actually tackle and finding the time for it (I refer you back to my answer to question three!).

 

DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing, was placed second in the Writing Magazine 'Mid-Story Sentence' competition and short-listed for the 2015 Carillon 'Let's Be Absurd' Fiction Competition, and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines around the world, such as Sorcery & Sanctity: A Homage to Arthur Machen (Hieroglyphics Press), Apples, Shadows and Light (Earlyworks Press), and Marked By Scorn (Solarwyrm Press), and issues of Sirens CallTigersharkThe Enchanted File Cabinet, and Carillon, as well as having a novella available in paperback and on Kindle, The Yellow House (Dunhams Manor).

 

DJ Tyrer's website is at https://djtyrer.blogspot.co.uk/

 

The Atlantean Publishing website is at https://atlanteanpublishing.wordpress.com/

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