Wombwell Rainbow Interviews
I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.
worked in Corporate Public Relations for two Fortune 500 companies, for whom he earned several national speechwriting and public relations awards. He is the author of four novels, Dancing Priest, A Light Shining, Dancing King, and Dancing Prophet, and the non-fiction book Poetry at Work. He is also an editor at Tweetspeak Poetry and Literary Life. He and his family live in St. Louis.
Blog: http://faithfictionfriends.blogspot.com Web site: http://dancingpriest.com
1. What inspired you to write poetry?
Like most people in their teens, I wrote a lot of really bad poetry. And then I didn’t write any at all for the next 40 years. Or I thought I didn’t. What happened was that I became a corporate speechwriter. That led inevitably to poetry – poetry began as the spoken word. I began to writer poetry seriously about 10 years ago, when, as part of a conversation on Twitter, I wrote and posted a short poem.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
A good friend told me that if I was serious about being a speechwriter, I had to read poetry, and specifically three of the great moderns – T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, and Wallace Stevens. He gave me a “collected books” of each – and it changed my career. Quite a few corporate executives don’t know that some of their best speeches were inspired by those poets.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
I don’t think I ever thought in terms of “dominating” older poets. In grade school, we learned poems like “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.” In high school, we studied Eliot, Frost, Emily Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Sara Teasdale, Edgar Lee Masters, Edwin Arlington Robinson, and Walt Whitman. In college, I studied British literature, and got a healthy dose of the Romantic poets, Shakespeare’s sonnets, Chaucer, Thomas Hardy, and others.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
My routine is to find time to write whenever I can find time to write. It’s usually the early morning and late evening hours.
5. What motivates you to write?
My first attempt at writing (that I remember) was in fifth grade, when I tried to write a mystery story. I didn’t think of myself as a “writer” until I was in college, although I was one of the few (very few) people who enjoyed writing themes, essays, and reports for English Composition and English Lit. Writing has been an essential part of who I am for a very long time, including through my entire professional career.
6. What is your work ethic?
I was raised in a family that believed in working hard. It was likely the familiar “Protestant work ethic,” but it wasn’t a “hard work gets to you to heaven” concept. Instead, it was more “hard work is its own reward.”
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I started out with mysteries – the first book I bought for myself when I was seven was “Trixie Belden and the Secret of the Mansion.” I loved the Hardy Boys, and then graduated to Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie. I still enjoy reading the mysteries of the Golden Age – the period from the 1920s through the 1940s when some of the greatest mysteries of all time were written.
As for literary and more serious fiction, I still read Charles Dickens. I read “A Tale of Two Cities” and “Great Expectations” when I was 13 and 14, respectively. I recently reread both, along with “Oliver Twist” and “David Copperfield.” I love the sweep of Dickens’ stories. And he drew incredibly vivid and memorable characters.
I also just reread “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and it was nothing like the book I remembered from high school. It’s not a book about how mean the old Puritans were, but a story about the internal conflicts people experience, what they sacrifice for appearances sake, and how revenge destroys both victim and avenger.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
For fiction, I like the British writer Mark Haddon, best known for “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” but with several novels and a short story collection that are excellent. I also like Anthony Doerr; his “All the Light We Cannot See” is a marvel. Two historical fiction authors who are outstanding storytellers are Hilary Mantel (“Wolf Hall”) and Annie Whitehead (“To Be a Queen”). In poetry, I like James Matthew Wilson, who writes beautiful formalist poetry, and Benjamin Myers, whose recent “Black Sunday” makes you believe you’re living in the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. And Robin Robertson’s “The Long Take” is a noir novel of Los Angeles written in poetic form; I love how he uses poetry to tell the kind of story told by Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and James M. Cain. My favorite contemporary mystery writers, Louise Penny, Ann Cleeves, and William Brodrick, write mystery stories that read like novels.
9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?
Writing is like breathing and eating for me. There’s something else besides writing?
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
Writers, before they are writers, are readers. I became a writer because I read widely, broadly, and deeply. I became a writer because I trained as a journalist. I became a writer because I was working on a public issue for a company, and someone needed a speech on the topic. I suppose all of those things together say I became a writer by inclination, training, and opportunity.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I’m working on my fifth novel; it’s part of my Dancing Priest series and will likely be the last in that line of stories. The draft is done and I’m going through my own editing process before I send it to the publisher. I’m also researching the Civil War; my great-grandfather enlisted when he was underage and was turned into a messenger boy. What happened to him at the end of the war is fascinating and something of a family legend.