Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with poet, novelist and short story author Ron Chavez. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Ron. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Ron: I live in Taos, New Mexico an art colony. At age 28 I read Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls and I was struck with the Spirit to write. I attended a night English class at a Monterey California junior collage where the professor gave me a plan. “Read a book a week, all subjects and write down 3 words a day and their definitions and some day you’ll be a writer.” I did this for 10 years. And I became a writer!
Morgen: What a great teacher you had. Concentrating on your poetry for a minute, do you write it to form or as it comes?
Ron: I write as it comes in both Spanish and English. 90 % of my poetry has been published in both languages here and abroad. I had never even read poetry when I started writing it at the suggestion of a writer friend in 1997 in Taos. My poetic life has been very exciting mostly because it took off much faster than my prose.
Morgen: Do you generally write rhyming or free verse?
Ron: I write both. There are no restrictions to my writing. I believe that creation starts in the mind then drops to the heart and out my soul.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date?
Ron: Aside from all my short stories and poems having been published individually in magazines and anthologies and other venues, I published an anthology of all my short fiction and poetry in 2008 with the title Time of Triumph. In 2011 I published my debut novel Winds of Wildfire which has already received six literary awards.
Morgen: Congratulations. Which authors would you compare your writing to?
Ron: A quote from an Amazon review maybe tells it best: Ronald
“Chavez writes with the pace and feel of a Michael Crichton thriller and the frankness of Walt
Whitman.” But from my perspective, my greatest influence has been Hemingway even though I don’t dare to imitate him. He wrote a lot about writing. This has been a great guide for me.
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Ron: Rejections in the beginning were huge. I call these my failure credentials. They are extremely hard to deal with. One I got from the Atlantic Monthly devastated me. I almost quit writing. Yet that story made it into the anthology Voces published by University of New Mexico Press called Man of Honor. Since the, I have been asked to recite from this story at several universities and many other venues including NPR Radio. The book was in print for 12 years and went all over the world. I received a letter from a lady in Georgia who told me “Every American should read Man of Honor.” Yet it was first rejected. So, rejections are hard to deal with but if one wants to be a writer, you better be ready to accept rejections as an integral part of writing.
Morgen: Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Ron: I enter many contests. Not long ago I won a first place in a short poem contest. In New Mexico there is the yearly New Mexico Book Awards whose books have been finalists. For poem, there is the World Poets Society. The best place to get connected too much of the writing world is LinkedIn. For a more complete list it’s best to e-mail me or contact me through my internet site.
Morgen: Do you go to poetry slams?
Ron: Poetry slams are not my cup of tea. But Taos is a beehive of poetry slams. So I attend many to support the cause. The one good redeeming factor is that slam poetry has revived interest in poetry like nothing else has. That is good.
Morgen: Do you deal with publishers directly or do you have an editor / agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Ron: I have self-published through CreateSpace an arm of Amazon. They have been a god send. I have a personal editor right in my own turf. I follow a Hemingway tip: “There is no such thing as good writing. There is only good re-writing.” On my current novel in progress, I re-wrote the first chapter eight times with my editor holding my hand. I call him “savage eyes”. My belief is that a good editor is absolutely essential to good writing.
Morgen: Absolutely. Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process?
Ron: Yes. Both my books are in E-Books. Here is where I got luck. Create Space formatted my books in a pdf format for E-Book publication that I could submit to all E-Book publishers. Currently I am with three E-book publishers and I am starting to see results.
Morgen: Do you think eBooks will change poetry?
Morgen: What / who do you read? And is it via eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Ron: I still read paper all the way. Recently I finished reading several history books: Terrible Swift Sword, A New Age Begins, a biography of Churchill until 1934, and Les Misérables, Guns, Germs and Steel.
Morgen: How much marketing do you do?
Ron: Since I am self-published, I have taken full responsibility for book marketing. A tough way to go. But just recently I have started to see small results and I am encouraged. I put in two to three hours every day on the internet. And I carry a back full of my books where ever I go and do quite well.
Morgen: Do you have a favourite of your poems or topic to write about?
Ron: Yes. When I first came to Taos in 1996, I first landed up the Sangre de Cristo Mountains East of Taos, a broken man after my world had crashed. I got on as a volunteer camp host with the forest service for $5 per day meal money and a small tent. By then my friend had convinced me to try poetry. This was my first attempt. I revised it for over 10 years without making it longer. It is by far my most popular poem.
© Ron Chavez
I cried out to God
Screamed to the sun, moon and the stars
And called to beyond the beyond
Far into the empty vastness of the universe
That violent and turbulent caldron of creation
To all things
Eternally big and infinitely small
That place where star stuff gathers and shatters
Into old endings and new beginnings
To please, please
Lift me out of this living hell
Of sudden failure and failed hopes
And shattered dreams
In my sleep
A flash of brilliance wakes and blinds my mind
I shake in panic and fear
Then of a sudden in a surreal stillness
I am calmed
Enraptured in a peaceful rest that stills my heart
My cry is answered!
I am awash in the scarlet aura
Of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains
Where the winter snows sweep
North facing ravines
Where the wind is high in the pines
Then, there, slowly… alone
Refreshed and revived by the rush
Of icy waters rumbling
In the clear streams
And the clean breath
Of the bracing mountain breeze
First light splits the dark
The night stillness and silence slips away
Birds, unseen, in the heavy green of the forest
Sing, shrill, warble and trill
A lone raven
Draped in coal black
Catches a stream of sheen
Off the rising sun’s beams
The force of its flapping wings
Cracks the flora scented wind
Whoosh, swish, hiss
Caw! Caw! Caw!
Echoes out and up into the sky
As it flies across the meadow and into the trees
In the heat of the mid-day sun on my back
In the thick of the woods
I lay on a bed of fallen pines
Quiet and still
In my ears I listen
In my head —
Where the mind ignites the brain–
The songs of silence
The sounds of solitude
My heart swells
My spirit thrills
My soul soars and wells
What once was heavy is now light
What once was dark is now bright
Down switch back curves to Taos I go
Snow on the alpine peaks above timberline
Poetry, music, dance, a little wine
In a fever to be free of fear
I begin to mend, to love life with lust
To live with passion and fire in my heart
Morgen: It’s very moving. You can tell it’s written from the heart. Presumably you choose the titles of your poems – do you get to keep them or are you ever overridden?
Ron: I keep them. I have never been over ridden. My titles have always worked.
Morgen: Do you show / read your poems to anyone before you submit?
Ron: I do one or to recitals per year locally. I will always include some of my new stuff along with requests. I have a large following and a strong publicity support by our weekly Taos News.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Ron: I have a novel in progress with a working title Ten Cents a Shine: A Route 66 Odyssey. When I was 11 years old in the 1940’s I shined shoes in front of the Club Café on Route 66. Years later I went on to own the Club Café and I rode the nostalgic mania Route 66 created after it was officially closed in the mid 80’s. I was featured in major media world wide, including Japanese Playboy. I couldn’t read the story but the pictures were nice. Then a McDonald’s came into town and I went broke. Thus my great fall. Thus the stuff of my novel in progress.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?
Ron: I am not a slave to my writing. I am 76 years old and love to live life. I do keep a satisfactory schedule because I am a morning person. My goal is 1000 words per day. This really works well for me. Writer’s block I never experience because I don’t write in a straight line and I write what I know or have researched well. Also I write scenes and dialogue as they come to me. I also believe I am writing all the time in my head by keeping a sharp awareness and maintaining a strong curiosity at all times. This method of jumping to different parts of my storytelling does not allow writer’s block to creep in.
Morgen: Why do you think poetry is such a difficult market to break into?
Ron: Because poetry is at the bottom of the heap right below literary fiction as far as readership goes. This I know because this is the arena I work in. By the time American readers are done with zombies, blood suckers, celebrity confessions and erotic romance novels there is no time left to read poetry or character driven stories that might make them think or ID with a good story. I realize this is a pretty strong statement. But a literary fiction writer or poet must face this reality.
Morgen: Are there any tips you could give to someone wishing to write poetry?
Ron: First, be fearless. Seek the essence of things and let it flow from your heart. It is obvious to a reader when a work is contrived or manufactured to please an audience. Here’s how I believe. “When I write to please everybody, I fall flat. When I write what I know fearlessly and from the heart, it won’t please everybody, but it won’t fall flat.”
Morgen: Do you write any other forms of fiction or non-fiction?
Ron: Short fiction is how I honed my writing skills. It prepared me to finally write a novel. I have written very little non-fiction, mostly newspaper articles. It is the height of creation to master the short story. There are many taboos. Only one view point. No exposition. Never contrive. Get to the point—fast. Stick to action and reaction. And so on. And if you carry this into a novel, you’ve got a chance at a page turner.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing of your poems or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Ron: Always lots of editing. But seldom longer writing. One word, a grammar change, a new twist. There is always room for editing to make a poem sparkle. Passion is the main ingredient in poetry. And this passion has to transcend to the reader. The reader is the only critic I care to listen to. I get feed back by e-mail mostly from my readers. They have no need to lie or blow smoke up my butt. I have always been pleased with my critics.
Morgen: I used to write a lot of 60-word stories and found the more I wrote the closer they came out to the word count. It’s obviously not a direct comparison but do you find your poems come out at similar lengths, or do they really vary.
Ron: Oh, they vary. I just won a short poem contest. Here it is:
Last night I took the taste of you
Into my dreams
When I awoke
The taste of you
Was still there
Morgen: I love it – short and sweet. Do you have to do much research?
Ron: Lots, lots, lots of research. Example: In my novel in Progress: Ten Cents a Shine: A Route66 Odyssey, I write about having travelled Route 66 from New Mexico to California in 1942 when my father had to go work building war ships during world 11. Thank God for the internet. Example: What was the wording on the Burma Shave jingles on their billboards? Yikes!!! I was only 6 years old.
Morgen: <laughs> Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Ron: No. None. After a myriad of rejections in my early writing life, I have truly been blessed. Just this week, After Fifty Living on the net published a whole chapter from my novel Winds of Wildfire about a bully experience I drew from my own life. The story is pretty edgy and holds back no punches. Yet it was published. Now I plan to market my novels by submitting free reads a chapter at a time.
Morgen: I recently started serialising novels (including my first) on http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/novel-nights-in and have had a few authors on board. You would think that giving a novel away free would be detrimental but so many authors have free days on Amazon that there must be something in it. It’ll be an interesting process for sure. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Ron: The least favourite aspect has been that I did not receive an education and that I started writing at a fairly late age. I have never even taken a creative writing class. It has always bothered me. I think I have good reason to feel this way. I did not publish my two books until after I turned 70.
But after a long stretch of failures and things started to go extremely well for me, it’s been sweet. For the first time in my writing life, I write with a certain confidence that is also sweet to the soul.
Morgen: What advice would you give aspiring poets?
Ron: At the risk of sounding like a pompous ass, ugh! Here goes: Lots of folks write poetry. But there are only a few poets. Here is what I wrote in Time of Triumph about this subject.
“To be a poet, truly, one must speak
The language of the soul
With the feelings of the heart,
And the rage of the spirit.”
Morgen: If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Ron: Ok. Now you are speaking about what I live for. Food is my love. And writing is my Passion. My guests: Hemingway, Michener and Taylor Caldwell. After owning my own restaurant for twenty years I perfected the art of cooking chile-flavoured foods. I would start with my salsa which won the grand champion award at the 1993 Texas / New Mexico Chile War, the up next would be red chile carne adovada with Spanish rice which was featured in the New Mexico Magazine followed with home style posole. All served up with sopipillas and honey. Afterwards friendship, wine and conversation. And Morgen, if this makes your taste buds tingle, come join us.
Morgen: I’d love to, thank you. 🙂 If you had to choose a single day from your past to re-live over and over, what day would it be and why?
Ron: The first time I saw my writing in print. There are few words to describe that feeling. But if I was to choose two it would be: sheer ecstasy.
Morgen: 🙂 Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Ron: How I love to fall back on Hemingway. “Going ‘inside’ a man’s mind or a women’s heart or both their souls is a book… done right it’s a good work of literature.”
Morgen: Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Ron: I mentor a young high school lady in poetry and the first time she recited in one of my gigs, she brought the house down with her edgy poem Virgin Eyes. She was only 15 years old. I also mentor a poetry club at a charter school in Taos. I have instrumental in guiding four friends including one of my brothers in successfully self-publishing their books. I am collaborating with a lady friend on a picture book with my prose.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Ron: I shoot a mean game of pool. I love live theatre, dining out, camping and travel and good movies. But above all I love to invite friends to enjoy my cooking. This serves to keep me a very popular guy.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful?
Ron: Just recently I ran into sites that offered the group names of animals. For example: A gaggle of geese. Or a nag of wives. Search group names of animals. I belong to a ton of writing related sites. Join LinkedIn for best results.
Morgen: It’s a great network. Are you on any other forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Ron: I am. At this point in time some of this networking is just now starting to come together. It’s a very slow process. It requires my three p’s: patience, perseverance and preparation.
Morgen: And a fourth: passion. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Ron: For us that stick it out and, never, never quit, to quote Churchill, there has to be a place for us. If the passion is strong enough and we learn to live small and simple and there is enough for meal money, and joy fills our hearts, then just maybe it’s all worth it.
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your work?
Ron: My web site is www.timeoftriumph.net. This incorporates all that I do and is well illustrated with YouTube and text and pictures. Amazon also exposes my works very well including a peek inside feature. The magazine Cold Coffee Writers Magazine on the net supports my works including one of the awards for Winds of Wildfire. After Fifty Living also publishes my works and provides lots of links to my works. My e-mail email@example.com is an excellent source for finding my works, even signed copies.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Ron: Only that I can’t thank you enough for giving me this opportunity to be interviewed. I like to quote Ben Franklin: “Genius and talent are not enough. You need luck.” This interview could be my lucky day.
Morgen: Oh, let’s hope so. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Ron: Will you provide me with the link if this goes live? My fans would love to read it. Thanks! Thanks! Thanks!
Morgen: Of course. It’s done and yours to do with as you wish. Thank you for joining me again (you can read one of Ron’s stories on http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/flash-fiction-friday-066-a-time-in-the-trees-by-ron-chavez
I then invited Ron to include another of his poems…
Mine Eyes Have Seen
White crosses by the thousands
On a Normandy green moist mound. One read: Known only to God
Oh, my God! I stood on sacred ground
The universe is too small to contain my sorrow
Have seen names, names, thousands of names
On Vietnam Wall where the courageous wept while the tragic dead slept.
Have seen changing of the guard sentinels sharp and tall
At Tomb of Unknown Soldier
Where no one can not weep, here the fallen warrior sleeps
But no where have I seen tombs of tyrants where people cry
Call to arms call to war, holy war, holy terror, holy intent no matter the name
All is inhuman horror
Yet hard as I try, my soul, my heart, my spirit, I can not console
Eyes swollen, gushing tears, I can not ignore my fears
Tell me how! Please tell me how we can become
One world, one love, one clan, one kindness.
Where is this place where man’s caring sensitivity we must find?
Come out! Come out! Into the light—fellowman
Up and above this quagmire inside this deep, dark, deadly cave
Of death and hate which humans can not deny we crave
Madness, insanity! Tell me; shout it; is it to late to abate?
And settle for all time a peaceful fate
And a synopsis of one of his books…
Winds of Wildfire is a riveting story of three living cultures set in Taos, New Mexico, the last vestige of the spirit of the Old West, which collide and coalesce in a backdrop of tragic love, unrequited romance, and the ravages of bigotry
Ron Chávez was the owner of the famous Route 66 Club Café in Santa Rosa, NM during that epic Route 66 nostalgic times after it officially closed. Chávez and his café enjoyed fame in world wide major media where he spun stories about how he shined shoes in front of the Club Café as a little boy and about the intriguing brilliance of people he met over the years in his cafe. In time he was known as the Route 66 storyteller. Chávez was born in the village of Puerto de Luna on the banks of the Pecos River in New Mexico USA.
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