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An Interview with Author Kathleen K
1. Kathleen, what inspired you to launch into your writing career? I read like a fiend when I was young. My mother had to limit me to seven library books a week. I concentrated on reading and writing in school then tested into advanced rhetoric study in college. I submitted samples to be assessed and got great news: I had talent – I just didn’t have anything to say since I was so young. Advice: keep writing, live a bit… so I did. I created a weekly drugs-and-sex humor radio show. Then I started a poetry magazine and opened a small press and erotica bookstore. I was a dedicated book-maker and seller, active in the poetry underground. Through it all, I was writing because I loved it. Like a musician hears flats and sharps, my tongue trips lightly. I’m a wordsmith. I can’t draw. I can’t dance. But I can write.
2. You offer books on a variety of subject matter. How would you describe your writing style? Narrative fiction is the most familiar form of storytelling, so I use that structure to the readers’ advantage. A good story has detail and scope, characters reveal themselves by choices; they thrive or wither as the story unfolds. My strengths are in construction: a rich vocabulary, a snappy tone, an ear for dialog. I was blessed with that from a young age. Over the years I was able to add experience and create multi-level story arcs, where something in the background will rise to the foreground, and the middle-space rearranges. This method lends itself to telling the story of almost any character: a grocer, a sexual consultant, a mom, because the book builds itself from the actions and reactions brought to the readers’ attention.
3. Two of your books center on marijuana and the stoner culture. Why do you find so many readers relate to these books? I live in one of the states that legalized marijuana because there were finally enough voters who realized there was an expensive misunderstanding in the drug laws. We all know that there is a pot underground, since the stoners always find a buzz even when it is illegal or inconvenient. The government should get into the weed business or out of the booze business. I decided to take a lighthearted peek into that lifestyle from the point of view of a moderate man with a taste for reefer and romance. He’s got a day job he enjoys, and a nightlife that fulfills him. His attitude is candid and wry; the book is peppered with toke talk for flavor. Stoners read too. Plus, the book makes a great gift as an inside joke to a weedie you know. Some of them are your brothers, your aunts, your neighbors, you. The Stoner series is a nod to all the potheads and their excellent adventures, a sexotic fictional memoir told in two volumes (so far). If you know the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was not just about a cross-country ride then you’ll appreciate that the man talking to us is on a trip of his own promoting stoner literacy and sexual thoughtfulness.
4. Several of your books feature erotica. Is there a growing fascination by mainstream readers with this genre? Due to the wide-open nature of our sexual expression in film, video, music, and advertising, people have dulled their sense of mystery and adventure in lovemaking. Everything happens so fast that it doesn’t actually percolate anymore. Reading erotica is not a speed-thing like Googling rectal thermometer fetishes. Erotica is not a rapid-intake thing: it is the stimulation of imagination with ideas the reader must absorb, one word at a time. I write for ROWDIER READERS, people who use their words, love books, and savor a sensuous scene.
5. What do you offer fans of erotica that is a bit different than other books, including Fifty Shades of Grey? There is a contagious sense of excitement in erotic/sexotic literature that is tough to do if you’re fighting writing fundamentals. I studied erotic writings and art then chose the vignette as the most effective use of my narrative roots. Quick, pointed details of an encounter set the stage for the reader to interpret; stringing these sexy bits together is the hard part so I establish a venue like The Lunarium which is about voyeurism or Honey B., a call girl’s suite life, so there is some reason you are aware of all these “situations” popping up. If you don’t like one scenario, how about this other one?
6. One of your books is about the sex phone industry. Can you tell us how your personal experience in this arena authenticates your writing? I co-operated a phone sex business for a year, managing the payroll, training the operators, and working a thousand hours on the live line. We named the business Sweet Talkers to set a civilized tone for a party-line sex chat room (pre-Internet). If the reader accepts that phone sex is about masturba¬tion then the business and the book make perfect sense. I learned to quickly get to the heart of a caller’s fantasy, and to listen closely to what moved them. I didn’t do all the talking. They had plenty to say about sex and love and hope and denial. Very few people have had this opportunity and it no doubt shows in my erotic writing, as it regards both vocabulary and pacing. I know the lingo and recognize the characters. Sweet Talkers qualifies as “curiosa” because it is pornographic nonfiction about an unusual subject, and I am proud to say it remains a cult classic now in its 3rd edition.
7. Another book, Honey B., is about an escort. Why do you think more women have not written adult-content material? Women writers have long been present in erotica but the political-economic-biosocial burdens of their gender had to be thrown off if they were to be “free” to write and sell those writings. There is a presumption porn is for men, and that men have the money. Romance is considered the weak sister of erotica, full of longing looks and smoldering smooches, but sustains vigorous sales. There are break-out books like The Happy Hooker, and Fear of Flying, which catch the imagination of both genders and serve as milestones. Then there are the oddities like Fifty Shades that ignite a previously unknown group of readers, in this case acting as “mommy porn”. It’s really just muddied romance. Forget quibbling about the writing and look at the basic plot (masterful man, supplicant woman). If you had a strong rich woman panting after a schlub of a student THAT would be a story.
Coming. Soon. Dark Prince, Heed Thy Queen
8. What void or need do you find your books fulfill? Sassy, sexy, comical, intelligent erotica is not for everybody. I make it perfectly clear I want ROWDIER READERS. Erotica is like jazz or spelunking: you get it or you don’t. I make it my business to provide high-end sexual expression liberally sprinkled with puns, metaphors, aphorisms, grunts, groans and chuckles. I am complimented on the good cheer and sex-positivity in the .xxx books, since the genre is dragged down by an over-abundance of smut. These are bedside readers for the adult mind. The Lunarium is tailored to fit in the nightstand so you can snuggle in to read one vignette at a time, or two, or ten. Stoner with a boner is written in freewheeling prose without burden of plot or conflict… it’s a memorable sexual escapade. I join a grand tradition of saucy talkers.
9. What are readers and reviewers saying about your books? I am considered witty, wise, comical, competent and accomplished by reviewers. It was important as an indie publisher to submit my work for assessment and I am pleased to announce I officially have an “oeuvre” considered a titillating body of work. Readers want sequels! They like the characters, they argue the choices made by the characters, they are engaged and opinionated. That is so cool. I consider fan reaction to be “Echo Back” from the books themselves. I want to create a forum for fans to interact with each other and, sometimes, with me. Some Tweet their favorite lines. I appreciate quick, brisk reviews. Tell us: was it worth your time and money? Fans are the BUZZ.
As for you punctilious comma counters, please pass the book on to a rowdier reader. You are missing the point period
10. Your books come from a small-press culture. Why do some of the best books not come from the big publishing factories? Indie music and films have established there is another pipeline to consumers and this is especially true of books since they are relatively cheap to produce. Corporate-based decision making is never going to match the fervor and insight of a small band of similar thinkers with a common artistic goal. Bookmaking is a craft of long history; it has been the province of a culture’s independent thinkers to publish their thoughts. Look at Copper Canyon Press to see what I mean… they elevate poetry by taking care with its presentation. Big-book business no longer controls the marketplace: those pesky readers are wandering outside the lines, not “buying” the pre-planned blockbusters. The stampede for Fifty Shades is a milestone for consumer independence. The writing didn’t sing because the plot is one-note, blah-blah-blah from the critics but it was being fingered by millions of e-readers. The phenomenon is not the books; it is the appetite for the books that should be examined.
11. Some of your books are best described as a narrative fiction centered on family life. Why are story dynamics revolving around family so alluring to readers? Everybody has a family. The word is freighted with eons of meaning, defined at a tribal level but present in all successful cultures. Family tales translate well. The presumption of privacy is lifted in a book so we spy on the family mechanics of others and by inference the world in which they live within the book. The interpretation of family rights and duties differs widely so there is a sense of being on a safari when you observe somebody else’s home life. At the root it is gossip, really, whispers around the campfire. Everybody loves the inside scoop with an extra helping of backstory.
12. What are you hoping to accomplish with your art? I love making books, in that sense I have accomplished my objective in this growing collection. I am actively producing new titles so I look forward to introducing those as they take shape. The positive reviews and fan encouragement tell me there are real readers out there, they get lost in books, they find an author they like and stick with them. I polarize readers: You like me (a lot) or you don’t (even more). I’m writing for the folks who still have bookshelves but I do render the books in Kindle format for e-reader convenience. I deliberately priced the print books between $6.66 and $9.99 to qualify as an impulse purchase; the Kindle versions cost between $4.99 and $6.66. All sales are online to reach the widest possible audience. I have worked hard to position myself so a web search for “kathleenk erotica” or “kathleenk fiction” puts me on the first page of results. Writing may be an art but book selling is a business. I’m easy to find if you know what to look for.
13. You write for people with varying tastes and tolerances. Would you prefer to be known for a single genre – or do you enjoy the challenges of writing on a diverse number of subjects? I would be pleased to be known as a solid stylist, to be acknowledged as providing “a good read”. I want to share the feelings I myself have enjoyed when transported by somebody else’s thoughts, entranced by their presentation. The fact my books skip around genres allows me to incorporate a variety of characters: Catholic mothers, pot smokers, tow truck drivers and the women who love them, voyeurs, and accountants on the run. It is customary for a serious writer to use a pen name for their erotic work (Anne Rice/Anne Rampling, Steven King/Richard Bachman) because big-business publishers didn’t think readers were smart enough to differentiate the subject matter. (And publishers didn’t want to saturate the market that they presumed to control.) I have always believed that people will read what they like and will drop what they don’t. I clearly label my books as “bedside readers for the adult mind,” because they are not suitable for some, appreciated by others. I just as clearly note the family-themed books to warn off those looking for vintage Boomer porn.
14. What advice do you have for today’s writer? Read and write. Put money into your art; don’t expect to be paid for doing what you love. Do whatever you need to do to support yourself and your dependents first, and then reward yourself with investment in your work. Don’t be so eager to publish, develop your own criteria for quality. It could take years and years to actually produce your best work, then you can go back and fix your earlier work. Don’t be so quick to let others judge: isn’t the whole point that you have a vision of your own? Enjoy the process, let time and experience enrich you so that as your mechanics improve your thoughts advance too. Figure out what you’re good at, make it better.
15. Where do you see book publishing heading? I sometimes feel I am writing for the last generation of book buyers and we are entering a stream-of-consciousness digital smorgasbord of fleeting e-things. Then I line up my books or visit a library or see a dog-eared copy of Stranger in a Strange Land in the hands of some steampunk skater and I dash back to my desk to celebrate that people carry books and books carry people. Humans play with words, new shiny words, old familiar words, words you’ve never heard before, like grok. The book is one of our “elevations” as a species, a time machine, a dream weaver. Publishing ebbs and flows. Words are an enduring currency, and exchanging them is fundamental to our free world. People love their stories.
16. You are publishing a book of graphic poems. Why now? ARCHING OVER Collected Collections of Graphic Poetry assembles four small books of erotic-sexotic-amorous expressions of love and passion. I chose to use the word “graphic” to forewarn of the adult content. “Graphic” states a fact, while words like “erotic” are peculiar to the beholder. Given our fascination with Tweet-sized thinking, poetry is a natural fit for the busy reader. Witty and wicked, tender and exultant, this oddly thoughtful book fertilizes your imagination. ARCHING OVER joins other vintage Boomer porn collectibles at KathleenK.xxx.
This book introduces the artist Maxximus who added the graphic elements and lots of labor. It was his task to complement the original images and layout of the four parts, then to unify them with the section break headings. We worked hard to balance each other’s perspective and I think his cover image is a stunning representation of feminine power.
Contact him at Maxximus.Art@gmail.com
17. Your vivid use of language and careful word selection give a real color and flow to your work. How did you nurture such a style? I believe rich writing comes from voracious reading. It also comes from re-reading, and dismantling things that work to see how that happens. Although I am told that I use a lot of challenging words, the context is usually familiar so the precision adds to the comic or tragic nuance required for the character. I love the color and force associated with language, working the interjections and interrogatives so the reader is propelled forward. I don’t underestimate the reader’s ability to translate as needed. I will rework a book six or seven times, not rewrite it but specifically clarify passages or call-backs to tighten the story’s texture. It took me three final drafts to figure out that one line in a poem should not be “come hither” but “slither hither”.
18. Stainless Mary is about bad breaks, the choices we make, and redemption. Why does it resonate with readers? Mary Stanley wonders if bio-plumbing dictates destiny. The male-dominated Catholic Church is the backdrop for her realization that she’s been dismissing herself as readily as her ex-husband and former employers did. The men may be in charge but the state of the planet is nothing to brag about, is it? She enters the sub-world of a women’s shelter to manage their donations and sees that men can be selfish and cruel and weak but that women are not blameless. She prays for peace, longs for love, hopes for happiness. There is a brisk tone and upbeat attitude that chase away the grims and leave you glad you took the time to read the book.
19. The Lent Hand is about a boy who learns to be a father without ever having really been a son. Do some people simply have to grow up fast? Jeromeo Clover is a slow-roasted deep thinker raised in the loving care of his grandparents while his hippie mother Starlight wanders the country looking for Being and Otherness. He is intrigued by family bonds since his mother tossed hers off, he doesn’t have a dad, and his grandparents were married to other people before this so obviously nothing lasts forever. Jerry knows he’s a bit of a nomad, like his mother and her father before her, but at least he doesn’t leave anybody behind when he wanders away. His integration into a shattered family teaches him that loving is as simple and as profound as saying you will, then doing so.
20. Joody chronicles the life of a negligent mother who leaves a path of emotional destruction behind her. Are some people just not cut out to be parents? Joody is a multi-voiced family drama whirling around a mother of three who is allergic to responsibility; she relies on her spinster sister Janet to fill in the gaps and lapses in childcare. I have juxtaposed four narrators, refracting their perspectives from inside then outside. Janet talks about Joody. Bryce talks about Janet. Brent talks about Bryce. Joody talks about Joody. This examination of parental love shows that human kindness is part of it but concedes that biology is at the root of it.
21. Family: Love v. Money celebrates the primal forces we juggle every day. Does life always pit wealth against love? Money can limit potential; love celebrates potential. The Love v. Money conflict is inherent when people pool resources to operate family style. The advantages of money don’t always provide strong character or broad perspective, nor is all suffering noble. The “wealth” thing seems like magic to people who don’t have it, while everybody knows you can’t buy love. There are two stories in this book: the long story of a fatherless heir to a family fortune in the hands of her selfish uncle and a shorter story about an accountant hijacked after work and ordered to Drive North. Each narrator’s family dynamics determine the outcome of that story.
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