Grey Wolfe Publishing’s Diana Plopa interviewed me for their website. Here is how it begins:
GWP: Do you have any writing rituals? If so, what are they?
MK: I don’t have any writing rituals. All the virgins are safe and won’t be sacrificed to the writing gods on my account.
GWP: What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?
MK: Is sanity a requirement? No one told me! Seriously, cultivate patience; with your own growth as a writer, with the process itself, and in receiving criticism. Patience will go a long way to maintaining one’s sanity as a writer.
GWP: Are there any occupational hazards to being a writer?
MK: I’m guessing you mean those of us who write fiction. I’m sure journalists and staff writers for television networks have their hazards. I can only speak as someone who writes fiction. And the only occupational hazard I can think of is expecting to have writing financially support yourself and a family. I find it destructive to my creativity to think about writing strictly for the money.
GWP: Describe your Muse. How does she/he/it influence your writing process?
MK: I don’t understand. If “Muse” is to mean what my American Heritage Dictionary defines as a source of inspiration, then that would have to be life itself. I try to write character-driven prose so people, in general, inspire me, especially those who live against the flow of the status quo. That’s what inspires me to write.
One essay shifted my writing and improved my development as a writer. It was George Orwell’s “Why I Write.” In it, Orwell identifies the four motives for writing prose which exist in different degrees within each writer. Those motives are sheer egoism – the “desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death,” etc.; aesthetic enthusiasm – the perception of beauty in the world or in the placement of words in their right arrangement; historical impulse – to record things as they are for the use of posterity; and political purpose – “to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people’s idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.” When Orwell wrapped up the essay saying “I cannot say with certainty which of my motives are the strongest, but I know which of them deserve to be followed. And looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably where I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug, generally,” I resonated with that.
Some might say that The Y in Life is a political book, which I don’t fully agree. It is a book about characters asking questions and the answers revealed or left unanswered. Questioning life does not leave out the environment within which we live. In Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, the lead character – Larry Darrell – focused on the spiritual. Though Maugham’s tale occurs during the roaring 20’s and the Depression which sends Larry’s “privileged” friends to financial ruin, Maugham doesn’t include these events into his questioning. They appear more as a natural force, like a hurricane, which “happens” without questioning the why. That’s where I wanted to push The Y in Life which, for me, gave me a novel worth writing.
You can continue reading at A Conversation with Michael Kitchen.