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This week, I’m pleased to bring you an interview with author R.P. Kraul.  He’s the author of the thriller Mirrors of Anguish, as long as the soon-to-be released Demon of the Fall.  I hope you enjoy his thoughts on the writing life!
1. When did you start writing?
I was a really creative kid, so I think the storytelling aspects were always in place. I’ve been interested in art, music, but writing is what I’ve stuck with. When did I really start writing, which is to say when I started working on my first novel, Mirrors of Anguish? That happened back in the late seventies. I’m influenced by film more than most other writers, I think, and Mirrors was kind of on-the-job training, and I would integrate into the story aspects from the latest horror films I’d seen. I also had a long hiatus from writing–about twelve years–and it wasn’t until about five years ago that I finally finished Mirrors.
2. Are you a pantser or a planner?
I’m an almost pure pantser. I’ve tried every planning method under the sun because, frankly, there’s just something alluring about planning a thing like you draw the blueprint for a house. When it comes time to actually writing after making the plan, however, I just can’t function. I’ve found that I need to discover the story the same way a reader does, which is to say there’s a lot of curveballs and unexpected turns along the way. I have absolutely no idea where I’m going when I start a project. The only thing I really need to know is the characters–who are they, and what they want. The story itself, it really springs from the decisions that the characters make.
I see advantages and disadvantages to both methods. For instance, pantsing seems to result in more organic stories at the cost of the editing mess you’re left with in the end. Planning gives you that firmer framework, but it’s often a struggle, at least for me, to maintain that natural, organic feel. The stories tend to have a more mechanical feel.
3. Can you give us an idea of your writing process?
When I was younger, I got into the habit of writing at night. The house was quiet and dark. It was my own creative kingdom. Being older and having a family, I now do my writing in the mornings before I leave for work. Music has to be playing as loud as my family will allow Smiling face (black and white) Silence–I don’t know; it’s very distracting. I use an Apple Macintosh and an array of different software, and when things are going well, I can usually knock out 2-3k in an hour.
I also try to stop in mid-scene because that’s the best place to start for my next writing session. If I finish a scene, I always try to start a new one, even if it’s only a few sentences.
4. Which authors have influenced your work?
Definitely Lovecraft and Poe. Those are required for any horror author. Also Fredric Brown, Stephen King, Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell, Jack Ketchum, and a bunch of others. I’ve also enjoy literary stuff. I love Hemingway. About ten years ago, a friend introduced me to the work of Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut is probably my all-time favorite writer. I should also mention Joseph Heller, if only for Catch-22. It has to be the funniest novel I’ve ever read, and it showcases his ear for dialogue.
I’m also a nonfiction hound. I love all the work of William F. Buckley, Jr. A writer can learn a lot from a language pedant like Buckley. He was brilliant and one of the funniest writers who ever raised a pen. To write those long, eloquent sentences and have them lucid in meaning–he was a true craftsman of the English language.
I’ve also been influenced by a lot of brilliant screenwriters. Woody Allen, David Mamet–these are two of my favorites. Dialogue is awfully important in fiction, and screenwriters are the real experts on the subject.
5. What are you plans/future projects/new releases that we should be aware of?
In late October, Immortal Ink Publishing will release my second novel, Demon of the Fall. It’s a vintage horror story with some crime elements. It’s a throwback to the horror comics of the mid-twentieth century.
Early in 2013, Immortal Ink Publishing will release Gates of Perdition, which is a prequel to Mirrors of Anguish. When I finally got an initial grasp on Mirrors (you know, when I wasn’t just emulating horror films), I tried to include a lot of previous history. The book became unruly. I decided it had to be another book entirely, and Gates was born. It’s a more literary book than Mirrors, and yet, the horror is even more extreme.
6. Any tips for new writers?
No matter which genre you write in, you ought to be familiar with the roots of your genre. I meet an alarming number of young writers who (apparently) haven’t read any books older than themselves. A great benefit of reading older books is simply to collect ideas and to analyze different styles. What do those writers do well that you don’t do well (or that contemporary writers don’t do well)? In the case of someone like Lovecraft, he did atmosphere really well. He created entire ruined, decayed worlds, and atmosphere in horror is really important.
Study the language. Our language is a toolbox, and each writer should know his or her tools.
7. Any tips for old writers?
The advantage of today’s technological society is that you can easily interact with a lot of people. The disadvantage of today’s technological society is that the constant interactivity can be a time waster–and so many voices can get into your head that you will have to struggle to maintain your own identity, your own vision. Writing, to some degree, needs to be a solitary activity. If you listen to too many people, you’re writing a collective story, not your own.
More importantly, don’t become complacent. Realize that, as a writer, you need to keep improving and evolving. You haven’t written that perfect book, and you never will. No one has ever written a perfect book. But the notion of perfection–it’s that idealistic pinnacle we should all strive for.
Also realize that writing is an abstract art, and as such, it’s highly subjective. One reader’s gold is another reader’s rubbish. Do the best you can and forget about these subjective opinions, good or bad.
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