Hi Walter. Thanks for coming on my blog and doing this interview. Here are some fairly enlightening questions our readers would like to know about you. I wish you great success with your writing!
How long have you been writing?
I have been writing since I was first able to make letters with a pencil. The other day I was going through some old boxes and I came across pages and pages and pages of old stories and manuscripts. It was actually almost freaky, as if I suffer from some bizarre addiction (I think most writers refer to their writing habit as an addiction…I do anyway).
I had my first story published when I was a Freshman or a Sophomore in high school, and I studied English Literature in College. I would have studied creative writing, but I thought it was better to study writers in a literature class and get the information straight from the horse’s mouth as it were, rather than be taught by professors of creative writing. I suppose that attitude was a little arrogant, but I’m a bit mistrustful of pretty much any academic system.
What kind(s) of writing do you do?
Anything and everything. I was the editor of a web page in Peru for a while which required me to write semi-formal articles. Since then I’ve started up a blog about Peru called “Streets of Lima” (http://streetsofperu.blogspot.com/ ) which is a series of highly informal rants.
My latest book with Rhemalda is a Heroic Fantasy (http://www.rhemalda.com/bookstore/bone-sword-p-31.html), but I’ve also got a couple travel memoirs floating around in my hard drives. As long as I can pound out some words and phrases on my keyboard, I’m happy.
What cultural value do you see in writing/reading/storytelling/etc.?
I’ve thought about this question a lot because I think those of us with degrees in English spend a lot of time defending our social significance :). I think that stories are a model for behavior. That’s why people get so angry when they see a character in a film behave in an inappropriate way. The belief is that sooner or later that attitude will be repeated by people who have seen the film in real-life situations (which is probably true in some cases).
Stories are a great way to convey useful information in a way that is safe and secure. There are times in your life when you are vulnerable and you need some guidance, and, unfortunately, there are many unscrupulous people in this world who will instantly try to take advantage of you in those moments. If you turn to a book, however, you maintain a lot more control. You can put the book down at any time that you want, and it’s up to you to provide the inflection to the characters’ voices that shapes how you perceive the story. The written word is a much gentler form of sharing knowledge. The reader gets to participate far more than if s/he was just being lectured at.
This is especially important today when the sum total of what we know as a race is far greater than any person could discover in his/her lifetime. It’s vital that we have a good way of communicating this information. It’s the great inherited wealth of the human race.
What/who inspires you?
Well, my wife and I have just had a beautiful daughter who has been lighting up our house for the last month. She’s the first person I thought of in answer to that question. Since she’s been born, I’ve found myself compelled to work twice as hard as ever before. Although I’ve never really felt I needed a lot of things in order to be content, I find that I just don’t want to deny my lovely little daughter anything.
As an extension of that thought, I’d also love for the world we lived in to be a little more reasonable for her and for everyone’s sake. There are so many days that I see people making decisions based on flawed logic or false information. These decisions lead to tragedies which lead to overall disharmony. As a writer, you find that poor logic kind of clears itself up through the process of writing it down. I think most writers have had to abandon novels when they realized the premises they were working with just didn’t hold up to support the weight of the work. Writing, for me, is a great way to clear and to organize my thoughts. The more of that I can pass on to others, the better the world should become.
How did you get to be where you are in your life today?
I’ve been pretty unconventional all my life. At one point when I was fairly young I decided it was better to fail by doing things my way than to succeed by doing things another’s way. I think that too many people simply get caught up in the “rat race” of thinking that they need a 55 inch plasma TV and a new car and all that garbage. When I was about 23, I decided that I wanted to travel and write above all else. So I moved to Lima, Peru where I was able to live for between $6000-$8000 a year. Now, living in Peru meant that I had to give up on a lot of luxuries that people in the US “enjoy,” but I didn’t miss them in the least. I love being able to live cheaply and maintain my mobility and do the things that I want rather than the things other people expect of me.
I always look a little skeptically at those people who are working jobs they hate for the promise of a pension or retirement package twenty years down the road. It seems to me that the precedent is for these companies and corporations to renege on their promises the second the dutiful employee comes to ask for them. I suppose it’s the lure of “security” that keeps people in positions like that. But I think you’re a lot better off when you realize there is no “security” in this world. You’ve got to live each day like it’s your last, spend as much time with your wife and children, and do the things you love to do. Never trade that for the promise of some pension that may or may not even be there in twenty years.
Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?
I’ve just been reading Douglas Adams’ “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detecive Agency” and it’s been a surprise to see how much his narrative voice has affected mine. But that’s mainly for my blog writing and things like that. For “The Bone Sword” (my recent fantasy novel), I suppose I’m more influenced by people such as Piers Anthony, Terry Brooks, and Tolkien.
Another big influence that I’d be remiss not to mention is Charles Bukowski. Of all writers, I think Bukowski achieves the greatest readability. His novels just flow from one word to the next, and I think his voice is simply staggering. The thing that I love most about Bukowski is that you can give one of his novels to a person who has never read or enjoyed reading before and they WILL enjoy Bukowski. Writing should be catered to the widest possible audience, and that, I think, is Bukowski’s greatest strength.
What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?
I think when it comes right down to it, all you have to do is write a lot and keep on writing. Sooner or later your own voice will establish itself. I think there are many people who make the mistake of thinking that there are hard and fast “rules” that you have to follow in order to make your writing any good. To some extent the things that creative writing instructors say are true, there are little conventions here and there that you should avoid. However, I like the line from the last scene in “The Wonder Boys” with Michael Douglas in which he says all writers have to figure it out for themselves…teaching doesn’t help.
If you want a teacher, make it be the editors you send your stories off to, the people who read them, and the reactions you get from them. Don’t base your changes on “hypothetical writing theory,” base it on real life reactions that you can see and feel.
How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
I think ebooks are great in that they can greatly bring down publishing costs and therefore allow for a lot more publishing companies to become established and a lot more voices to be heard. I know a few people still grumble about the idea of reading an electronic book, but those e-readers (like the Kindle and the iPad) are here to stay (and they’re pretty darn cool too).
When it comes to a choice between alternative and conventional anything…I’m always going to pick alternative. The alternative is just the evolution of how things get done, it’s the cutting edge.
When you think about it, it’s really an exciting time for writers and writing. Blogs, for example, are such a great way to get the word out there, and social media like Facebook and Twitter allows you to have instantaneous contact with thousands of people with just the press of a button.
What are some ways in which you promote your work? Do you find that these add to or detract from your writing time?
The main things are my blogs. I already mentioned “Streets of Lima” (http://streetsofperu.blogspot.com/ ) which is my Peru blog. I also have a “Heroic Fantasy” blog at (http://walterrhein.blogspot.com/ ). In addition to this blog, I have a Facebook group called “Heroic Fantasy” which is up to over 2000 members. You can join at: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=108822105819999&ref=ts
Of course, maintaining all these things takes a lot of time, but I don’t view it at all as a detraction. I think all writers have a certain amount of energy they just have to “burn off.” In the old days, that would be ground up by early drafts and notes that were eventually tossed into the waste basket. Today, you dump all that stuff into your blog which gives your readers an interesting day to day insight as to how you’re thinking. Blog entries are like the news, they’re not great literature, but they’re entertaining for that afternoon. After you’ve gotten done “warming up” by writing your blog…you can move on to working on your more important tasks.
What do your plans for future projects include?
I’ve been in talks with Rhemalda to do a couple sequels to my fantasy novel “The Bone Sword” already (http://www.rhemalda.com/bookstore/bone-sword-p-31.html). In addition to that, I’d like to see if they might eventually publish some of my South American travel narratives (those are a bit dicey…really pushing the envelope). Also, I’ve just finished up a book which is kind of a memoir of my cross-country skiing and marathon running days. They haven’t gotten back to me on whether they’re going to publish it, so keep your fingers crossed for me!
In addition to all that, I will continue to enjoy working on my blogs and various e-publications. Feel free to contact me if you think I can bring some visibility to your work. I feel it’s the responsibility of writers to help one another out, and I’m happy to do it!