Kenneth Radu has had a series of writings published. Poetry, fiction, memoirs and essays all are listed in his biographies. His most recent work is Butterfly in Amber (Link to DC Books site) and comes highly recommended. Radu recently answered a few questions for me.
1) You have been published in a series of writing forms: poetry, fiction, short stories and a memoir. Is there one particular for you enjoy working in? If yes, which one and why?
A: As far as my preference for a particular form or genre of writing goes, the subject matter combined with my feelings about it and sense of its scope have always determined what form the work takes. I have a preference for the short story as narrative art, perhaps,because so much can be achieved in relatively little space, and it combines the density of the poem with the narrative energy of the novel. That depends of course on the kind of story one is writing. Having made a generalization in the first half of the previous sentence, I am aware that easy generalizations about the short story, or any of the literary forms are risky and often wrong, because the immense variety of talents and visions in the world preclude hard and fast rules and often elude definition. I will say, however, that now and then I need the dimension and freedom of a novel. I no longer write poetry, so my preference must necessarily be for prose.
2) Have you done any public readings for any of your work? If yes, what was that experience like for you?
A: I have done public readings in my time, although none for several years. Invitations are no longer forthcoming, the literary field is crowded, I lack a coterie praising my work, and mainstream media aren’t interested, but I have never been a household name in any case. Nor have I been particularly pro-active on behalf of my own writing. In the past, from one or two literary festivals to intimate coffee house gatherings, from the occasional classroom to libraries, the readings allowed me to see the personal effect, as it were, of my writing. People who attended did so out of curiosity, mild interest, or perhaps genuine appreciation (unless a captive audience like students). The experiences have for the most part been satisfying. Not always. A couple have been excruciating. I do remember a “reading” I gave to an audience of one at a library: the organizer. No one else came.
3) Are working on any new writing right now? If yes, are there details you can share with you fans?
A: I am always working on something of one kind or another, fiction and non-fiction. Aside from saying short stories and essays, perhaps notes towards a future novel, I prefer not to go into details, as in many cases I don’t quite know the details myself. They tend to proliferate during the process of writing, not before.
4) When you write do you get inspiration from your own life or from the lives of others for your stories?
A: Well, I’m not sure what is meant by inspiration although I have used the word or concept myself, and there are moments when a thought strikes me, an image, or I enter a realm of clarification. I don’t really depend upon the magic moment, for want of a better word. Sources are many and varied: personal experience, the lives of others, a sight on the street, a strange concatenation of events that make me wonder what the various consequences could be, the “sources” are plentiful and varied. I sit down and write, and the inspiration comes from the doing, not from the waiting for the right time or right feeling. Life is short and I am too impatient and now too old to wait for a great burst of divine afflatus.
5) Have any of your works been the subject of any book clubs? If yes, did you participate in the discussions at all?
5: If my work has been the subject of book clubs, I don’t know about it, except there is a review of a collection of my stories on a website called Book Club Buddy, so perhaps something followed from that. So, no, I haven’t been part of a book club discussion of my work.
6) There are quite a few people trying their own hand at writing fiction and poetry right now. Do you have any advice for them?
A: The only advice I have for novice writers is to read: read widely and read more than what hits the limelight or wins the prizes, or what’s on someone’s list of favourite/best/greatest this that or the other thing. Just read. Join a library. And write so that it becomes an inextricable part of what you do from day to day.
7) You seem to have a somewhat active presence on Facebook. Does using that platform help or hinder your writing at all?
A: Facebook, however, problematic, has introduced me to many people whom I otherwise would never have known, especially artists, and I find it intriguing in that respect. I can also advertise my books, as every writer does, and sometimes a FB book connection leads to a focus on my work which I appreciate (e.g. your own questions and blog), but it’s not really an engine of sales. To answer your question more specifically, I’d say it has helped my writing or has led to my writing about something I would not have done without the phenomenon of Facebook.
8) I had an interesting discussion with a poet who lamented that people complain to her that her work “doesn’t rhyme” – Do you find that poetry has a stereotypical image that may be keeping readers away?
A: I don’t know what “stereotypical” image people could possibly have of poetry. If they explore its many dimensions and styles, the genius of particular poets, any generalizations, as I have previously said, are proven to be wrong. Rhyming is a technical device, not an absolute requirement. Many poems past and present rhyme, many do not. I don’t understand why someone would pick “rhyme” and complain that a poet’s work doesn’t rhyme. If she insists that rhyming is essential to a poem, then I suppose that view itself would be a narrow and inhibiting stereotype. People need to explore and widen their understanding of what’s available and what’s possible, especially in poetry. Don’t expect it to correspond with personal biases and preconceptions. Prose, too, for that matter, but no one complains about the lack of rhyme in prose.