Author Interview Questions for Lory Kaufman. Mr. Kaufman’s premise of History Camp is both creative and intriguing. Having taught history, I have always been appalled at the inability of world leaders to ever look at history for guidance. Anyone having read the history of Vietnam would have never sent troops there let alone Afghanistan. I heartily enjoy the concept of History Camp where a future civilization is foresighted enough to look backwards. Mr. Kaufman has been kind enough to agree to be interviewed. Many thanks and best of luck with The Lens and the Looker.
Here's the interview. I hope you and your readers enjoy it. Usually I let these things "pickle" for a day or three, and often have an editor look at them. Please feel free to correct any spelling mistakes, typos or tense mistakes, which I'm famous for. I do try to write these things in a conversational manner, so it's like we really are talking. Feel free to edit your questions to fit in, as my answers have deviated slightly from the questions in a few instances.
1.) Why did you write this book? What initiated this particular burst of creativity?
Burst of creativity? Hardly. More like hard slogging through the confused entrails of my mind. The “burst” started about 1989 and slowly exploded and imploded alternatively for about fifteen years, till I got my life together enough to make it happen. Why did I write this book? Because I had to. It’s a cliche, but it’s true. Most writers write because they can’t not write. Of course, besides my compulsion, I do have a personal purpose. Maybe you’ll ask me about it later.
2.) Does your story line develop organically or is it a gestalt before you begin?
I believe a good and true work of art is a bit of both. In fact there’s a third component; objective finishing and polishing with an eye to the public. So, yes, there was a gestalt, a need to express and prove myself, and a feeling I wanted to be part of what I saw as an important conversation about how humans will interact with the planet into the future. That gotten out, I then had to smooth it out and make sure the story wasn’t formulaic and that there was some objective vision of the piece as a whole. I follow the Steven King rules of writing the first draft “door closed”. That is, nobody reads it, after the premise agreed on, till it’s finished. But when it is finished and I give what I see as a perfect manuscript to either of my editors, (Lou Aronica, big picture editor or my daughter, Jessica Kaufman, line editor) I am always amazed at what they mark up) “Why didn’t I see that? It’s so blatantly obvious,” I say to myself. Then finally, when the structure and the thousands of other details are changed, the finished product must read seamlessly, like it was always like this and that the author is not standing on a soapbox, spouting a polemic.
3.) Do you have a favorite character in the book and if so why?
Favorite character in the book? No, they’re all my children and I love them equally. Artistically and technically, I’m very pleased with Ugilino, Agistino, and the Signora, three characters I was trying to draw à la Mark Twain or Charles Dickens. I really love their colorful period characters that, with all their flaws, are sympathetic and stand out, even when they’re doing less than admirable things.
4.) Why did you chose Verona for your destination?
I had the concept for History Camps for a long time, and was playing with many settings. When I got in a financial position to follow my dreams of being a writer, about six years ago, I decided I must start reading a lot more. One of the first things I re-read was Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Even though it’s one of the most played off themes in history, I couldn’t resist. Now, I in no way followed that storyline exactly, but just played off the theme, characters and events. One Shakespearean thing that I do try to emulate is layering my plots. My hope is that when the books get re-read, the reader will see and understand the story differently. That fits into your previous question about organic development.
5.) What do you like the most about writing?
Being A.D.D., I love living within my imagination. It’s like a drug to me, a high, where I get a tingly feeling up and down my spine when a solution to a plot problem I've been working on for weeks or months finally reveals itself. I also like being part of literary discussion. Finally, some of my themes are environmentally based, so it allows me to be part of that discussion too.
6.) Where do your new story ideas come from?
Now that’s the question, if answered, would allow us to program artificial intelligences with imagination, because it’s like asking, “What is imagination?” I really don’t know where they come from, but I do know how to make it happen. I just tell my subconscious, come up with an idea that addresses these themes or questions and a day, week, month or year later, they show up. I am a strong believer in the fact that the answer is not the goal, but a clear question. Once you can delineate a clear question, the answer is usually obvious.
7.) What advice has helped the most in your writing?
Read, write, read, write, read, write, read, write, read, write, take a workshop, read, write, read, write, read, write, join a writing group, read write, r ead, write, read, write, read, write, read, write, read, write, take a workshop, read, write, read, write, read, write, join a writing group, read, write. Just do it!
8.) How far along are you on The Bronze and the Brimstone?
The Bronze and the Brimstone, the sequel to The Lens and the Looker is finished and just was released. I’m now working on the final book of the Verona Trilogy, entitled, The Loved and the Lost.
9.) Who is your favorite author and why?
I can’t mention just one. How about I mention a dead author and two live ones?
Ernest Hemingway is my favorite dead author. His masterpiece, For Whom the Bell Tolls, is a touchstone for me, and informs many of my character sketches and action scenes. Neil Gaiman’s, The Anansi Boys, is another great piece of work, again, whose seemingly light technique really brings the reader into the heads of his characters. Finally, there's David Benioff’s book City of Thieves. I guess the common thread for all of them is the use of what’s known as third person limited writing, which allows the point of view to move around from character to character, but brings the reader right behind the eyes of the characters.
10.) What advice would you give for the want to be writer?
Read, write, read, write, read, write, read, write, read, write, take a workshop, read, write, read, write, read, write, join a writing group, read write, read, write, read, write, read, write, read, write, read, write, take a workshop, read, write, read, write, read, write, join a writing group, read, write. Get the picture?
Thanks Bill, I’ve really enjoyed your questions and look forward to chatting with you and your readers again soon. –Lory Kaufman