- Guest Author -
Today I feature another interesting character, a novelist, short story writer, poet and screenwriter - Ron Chavez from Taos, New Mexico. Ronald P. Chávez was born in the farming village of Puerto de Luna in New Mexico on the banks of the Pecos River. He spent years as owner of the Club Cafe on historic Old Route 66. He writes poems and stories about the people and places of those times. “The gente,” he says of them, “are the salt of the earth.”
Welcome, Ron ...
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
For me, it seems that I’ve had a two phase writing experience. At age 28, I started writing and publishing short fiction. At age 60 I entered my second life phase until my current age of 76 at which time I wrote and published poetry for the first time. After age 70 I published my first book Time of Triumph an anthology. Then came my debut novel Winds of Wildfire at age 74. Today I am writing my second novel with a working title Ten Cents a Shine: A Route 66 Odyssey where I draw from having lived on Route 66 and became a Route 66 icon with world wide acclaim where I was featured in all major media including Good Morning America, Dallas Morning News, Japanese Playboy and the book Route 66 the Mother Road which was nominated for a Pulitzer prize to name just a few major venues.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
After reading For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway at age 28 I was inspired to write fiction. To this day, Hemingway is my top influence. But by no way do I dare to imitate him. He wrote a lot about writing. Of this I am a devoted student of his and his instructions in all my works.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
To be able to let my imagination fly free to create stories that stir reader’s emotions and to provoke thought and then have readers share with me face to face or by e-mail and snail mail how my writings have impacted their lives. This is a huge satisfaction to me as a writer. Afterwards to have received six literary awards adds to the sweetness of being a writer.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
My concern that my writings are worthy of peoples reading experience that stays with them beyond the first read by impacting their lives and that it brings joy or drama or dreams or a new way of life.
WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
At age eleven I shinned shoes on old Route 66 in front of a Café in Santa Rosa, New Mexico that years later I became its owner. I worked my way up the latter, first as a bus boy, then dishwasher and up to cook. Between owning the café, I had an 18 year sojourn to California in 1956 where I became a meat cutter. In 1973 I returned and bought the café called Club café. It was at this time that I rode the nostalgic Route 66 rage after the Mother Road closed in the mid 80’s only to be knocked out by McDonalds in 1993.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
My goal in life was to write a novel. I honed my writing skills by writing short stories that worked by both breaking and learning the craft of writing. Poetry taught me brevity and the priceless value of selecting each word carefully for its passion and underlying deep power.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
My novel in progress with a working title Ten Cents a Shine: A Route 66 Odyssey. I draw deeply into my own life experience but trance form it into pure fiction. This is a daunting task that challenges my entre scope of my writing skills. I am determined not to write something that smacks of a Memoir. Done right it could be a true work of literature and also be my break out novel because Route66 is still alive in the hearts and minds of people world wide.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
To seek the look and feel of people and places and capture the sensuous brilliance of the worlds offerings, to be able to work-in the excitement of complex relationships, to succeed in readers ability to sense the tensions of sexual intrigue, To have readers feel as if they are present in all the drama., including my self.is the highest possible inspiration to write.
WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
Fiction: short story and free-style poetry.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
I have been a guest at many university writing classes and have tutored a young lady that has advanced to become a true poet after three years of staying with it. I was approved to be a tutor at a high school poetry class. My most successful words of advice are, be fearless, write from deep in your heart or else it will sound manufactured and lastly be passionate.
DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Interesting question. I do not suffer writer’s block if you are talking of coming to a complete block of the creative spirit. I write in a non-lineal style. I work on scenes and dialogue as they pour out of my creative juices and cut and paste in manuscript where it fits. So if I come to a point where I am struggling with a point in the story I shift to a scene or dialogue I have hand written mostly when I wake up or sitting at my home bar or in the park or any where on earth because I carry a pen and pad, always.
DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
Yes I do. I write mornings. My goal is 1,000 words. If I write less or more, it’s all good. What I seek is good writing, not word volume. Truman Capote, author of In Cold Blood which took him four years to complete was on asked what he thought contemporary writers. After a long pause replied, “They’re good typist.”
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
I have converted my dining area into my writing station. I am surrounded by file cabinets, stacks of odd things such as research papers, pictures for reference and all odd things a writer infused with curiosity piles up. I also take my meals at my writing station. Neatness is not my priority.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
When one’s passion is to create out of one’s imagination is hugely a joy, especially regarding my poetry when people tell me to face that I have touched their heart or that my words have changed their lives. That is pure joy.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
By far, it’s Hemingway. His use of simple words and sentences that evoke emotion is the true art of writing. He truly goes inside a man’s mind or a women’s heart or both their souls to create a good work of literature.
WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
A former sweetheart wrote me an e-mail and said in reading my novel Winds of Wildfire she saw and felt me on every page and that it stirred her emotions like nothing she had ever read. Wow!!!
WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
A not so close friend said my ending in Winds of Wildfire needed to be changed and began telling me how he would have written it. I interrupted and told him he should write his own book. End of conversation.
WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
I certainly am. I write what I know and what life experiences have taught me. I am told my work is edgy and earthy. I take that as a complement.
OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
The word love really applies here. My passion is writing. But my love is cooking, especially New Mexico chile related dishes. After owning my own restaurant for twenty years, my recipes for chile dishes were featured several times in the New Mexico Magazine and Eating Well Magazine. My Salsa won the grand champion award in the Texas/New Mexico chile war in 1993.
DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
Yes I did. A volunteer professor and his ex English teacher wife did the editing. But I am sorry to say my manuscript could have used some added proofing as the final publication still had some typos. But the quality of my writing seems to have not interfered with the enjoyment of reading the novel.
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
A day where I felt I had written what truly came from my heart and out my soul and this is confirmed afterwards by readers who I trust are not blowing smoke up my butt. I do not value anybody who is trying to feed a bloated ego which I do not have nor desire.
IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
Intellectually, it would have to be Taylor Caldwell who was steeped in the knowledge of ancient history. Some folks believe she was reincarnated from ancient times. I too am an ancient history buff. A small back story on Caldwell. My aunt Rita who lived to be 103 on a ocean cruse met her on the same cruse and told me she had been totally intriguing and a delightful person to converse with. Sensuously, it would be Marilyn Monroe. Yikes!!!
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
That civilization as we presently know it has failed. The thirst for human blood shedding is uncivilized. War, terrorism, mass murder by tormented minds, dictators and leaders who are full of phony crap designed to appeal to nit wits is uncivilized and unhuman. Read my novel where the underlying thyme in a search for a better life by getting closer to the natural laws of nature where wonton killing is not a way of life.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
To still have the fire and faculty to finish my current novel in progress and perhaps write a third novel if I live long enough,
WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO HEAVEN?
For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Source, The Glory and the Lightning, Don Quixote, The Pearl
DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
Yes I do. In every male character in my novel I slip in my world view when it’s a good fit and it does not come across like I am feeding a bloated ego, which I do not own.. Allow me to quote one of my reader’s,” It seems that every time I read your poetry you go deeper and deeper into yourself. But the language gets subtler and subtler, so that you make me feel it, instead of telling what to feel.”
DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Indeed. To me it seems publishers rarely seek literary fiction and poetry. Maybe because readers do not seek them either. By the time readers read about zombies, chic-lit, celebrity confessions and sci-fi etc. there are few readers left for my style of character driven stories and heart felt poetry.
DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
Once. After a rejection from Atlantic Monthly Magazine where they commented “We are not publishing ethnic stories at this time.” Mt sport story was Man of Honour, a story about an American grandfather and his only grandson who is sent to Viet Nam and is killed. I was devastated.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
Having written and published my first novel, which was my life long goal from the start of my writing career. Never mind that this did not happen until I reached the age of 74.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER?
After I honed my writing skills in writing short stories and poetry, learned the craft and finally felt confident I had found my own voice has been the ultimate success in my heart and mind.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
A novel with the working title of Ten Cents a Shine: A Route 66 Odyssey drawn from my own life experience of having lived and worked on Route 66, first as a 11 year old as a shoe shine boy in front of the Club Café which I grew up to own years later where I rode the nostalgic history world wide craze after the Mother Road closed in the mid-80’s.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
My love of life.
DO YOU HAVE ANY FINAL TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Never, never quit!
WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
That their feelings and emotions have been stirred and that they are looking forward to a re-read.
HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
All the best one can give. What works is anybody’s guess.
WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
To write and publish two more novels.
WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
Marketing is a necessary evil. It cuts into my creative time. But if one can’t hack it, grab your jacket.
ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
Clancy, thank you so much for the opportunity to do this interview. Be well. Ron
Clancy's comment: Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts, Ron. Best of luck.