John Van Kirk is the author of the novel Song for Chance (Red Hen Press) His work has earned the O. Henry Award and the Iowa Review Fiction Prize and has been published in numerous magazines and journals. This is his second appearance in NUNUM.
Something to think about for sure. Never would have guessed it would've been that book but for sure it was on my shelf as a kid as well, loved all of the doctor's work really. But let's get more current, what was the last book you read that made you say damn that was a good book?
Rajia Hassib’s A Pure Heart.
Have to be honest, I ask everyone that question, still haven't found a better way to find out about great books than talking to writers I respect. Okay, this is another standard but I swear it has a purpose; pen, pencil or phone which one do you reach for when you need to write something down?
Fountain pen. Most of my work begins in longhand.
Could never handle one without making a mess but can for sure appreciate the aesthetic. Let's flip to motivation, what books made you want to write?
Conrad’s Marlowe stories made me want to write; Gunter Grass’s “The Tin Drum” made me want to write a novel.
Speaking of wanting to write, part of that process is sending out your work. What advice would you give someone who is just starting to send their work out to journals?
Don’t be in too much of a hurry, especially in sending out work that you’ve just finished and you’re terribly excited about. Let it sit for a while. Your enthusiasm may have blinded you to weaknesses you can fix when you look at it with a cooler, clearer eye.
Well said and something I've been guilty of more than once. So let's keep going with that guilt idea, what writers are your guilty pleasures?
I enjoy the novels of George Simenon. His “hard novels” remind me of Camus and James M. Cain, and his Maigret stories transport me to a France that is mostly gone now but can still be glimpsed if you look hard enough.
We all need our candy. What about outside of writing, what non-literary arts are you interested in?
All of them. A writer should be interested in everything. I’ve always been a lover of painting and music, and I have a weakness for black and white films, especially the noir dramas of the 40s and 50s.
John thank you for this, it was a pleasure and actually puts your 'Apocalypse Now' piece into a slightly different light for me.