Thanks to Vanessa Blakeslee for nominating me to take part in the My Writing Process Blog Tour. Vanessa’s first story collection came out at the same time as my own SONGS FOR THE DEAF. In fact, when our books arrived from the printer, we signed pre-order copies together at the Burrow Press office, then celebrated with a beer and a reading at the University of Central Florida. Vanessa’s collection, TRAIN SHOTS, is gem of a book—crafty, heartbreaking, and wise beyond its years. The collection recently received a gold medal from the Independent Publisher Book Awards. I highly recommend it.
On to the blog tour questions…
1) What are you working on?
I used to work on only one thing at a time, but now I’ve changed my tune, partly because I’m determined to be in less of a hurry. I’ve seen the value of setting things aside. My current projects include:
a. A children’s book version of my FEARSOME CREATURES bestiary. This one is called FEARSOME CREATURES AT YOUR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL and features imaginary creatures that kids might find around their schools (“Leftoverman” made of cafeteria scraps; “Backpack Beetles” who eat your homework; “The Caterwaul” formed of off-key notes in music class). My hope is to visit elementary schools with this book and encourage kids to invent their own creatures. I’m just about done with this and have started searching for children’s book agents.
b. A young adult novel called ALEX KRAFT AND THE OTHERWORLD about a rogue “dreamlord” who creates an imaginary world that closely resembles the hero’s own school and neighborhood. The dreamlord gains power by luring Alex and his friends into the imaginary world—and then trapping them. Things go horribly wrong, of course. I have a draft of this that I’ll be revising this fall.
c. An as-yet-untitled Florida novel that features Elvis Presley (when he was in Florida in 1961 to make Follow That Dream), an army of sleepwalkers, the magic of Florida springs and sinkholes, and possibly some time travel. I also have a draft of this, but I’m making some major changes and hoping to finish it up next spring.
d. A mountain novel called THE PRINCE OF FOUL WEATHER about a down-on-his-luck house painter who mistakenly gets hired as an art teacher at a summer camp for teenage girls. I wrote this a long time ago and even shopped it around. I always said I’d revisit it, and now’s the time. It’s written in a spare, though whimsical tone. I’ll be re-reading Knut Hamsun’s PAN for inspiration.
2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?
My writing is sort of all over the place in style, tone, and genre, which probably isn’t the best method for advancing a writing career. I don’t mind; I keep myself entertained, and I always feel I’m learning and exploring something new. If I had to describe what makes my work unique, it’s a secret recipe of satire, absurdity, mythmaking, and whimsicality, with unexpected and occasionally dark leaps into character psychology.
3) Why do you write what you do?
I try to remain true to the first joy I took in “making things up”—telling “what if” stories on the school bus, or extending a tall tale or an obvious lie until it says the unexpected, a truth
you didn’t know. That makes me aware of the reader’s need to be entertained, as well as my own. I write the stories and novels that I’d like to read. Sometimes I imagine an empty shelf space in a bookstore or library; what is the unwritten book that needs to go there? That’s the one I’ll write.
4) How does your writing process work?
I write on a computer most weekday mornings, sometimes taking a break for exercise—usually disc golf—so I can approach things with a fresh look afterward. I have a hard time spitting out fast drafts; I tend to revise (too much) as I go, even though much of the first draft will be cut or dramatically changed once I understand the story. But for me to reach that point of understanding, I have to spend time getting to know the characters, the plot, the setting, etc. So I plod through drafts, two pages forward and one back, until I get something I’m comfortable with. I’m naturally skeptical, so my first challenge is to convince myself. Later drafts are what I enjoy most; I’ve grown to love tinkering with sentences rhythms and sounds. I’ve grown to love deleting things, too.
Thank you for reading this. Next, I’m passing the torch to three excellent writers who will participate in the My Writing Process Blog Tour next week. Please visit their pages and read their work.
KIMBERLY KARALIUS is just getting started on her writing career but already has many fans through Figment.com, Goodreads, and her blogspot, I Wear Milk Crowns. Her first novel, LOVE FORTUNES AND OTHER DISASTERS, won a national contest and will be published next year by the MacMillan imprint Swoon Reads. She has also published a fiction chapbook, POCKET FOREST, with Deathless Press. She holds an MFA in fiction from the University of South Florida. Her website is http://kkaralius.blogspot.com/.
J. R. MILLER was born and raised in the blue-collar suburbs of Detroit. After several years of working in advertising and joined by his wife and children, he moved to Florida. He received his MFA from the University of South Florida. His work appears in Midwestern Gothic, Palooka, Fiction Fix, Prick of the Spindle, Fiction Fix, Prime Number and C4. He is the Co-Founding editor of (ĕm): A Review of Text and Image, is production editor for Sweet Publications, and teaches creative writing in Florida. His debut book, NOBODY’S LOOKING: A (RE)COLLECTION OF RED POP AND RITALIN, will be released February 2015 (ELJ Publications). You can visit his website at http://www.miller580.com.
IRA SUKRUNGRUANG is the author of the memoir TALK THAI: THE ADVENTURES OF BUDDHIST BOY and the poetry collection, IN THAILAND IT IS NIGHT. His forthcoming book, SOUTHSIDE BUDDHIST, comes out this fall. He teaches in the MFA programs at University of South Florida and City University Hong Kong, so he has adoring fans worldwide. His website is http://www.sukrungruang.com/