Bewildering Stories Interviews
James R. Rudolph
I. Personal Questions
Where do you live, if you don’t mind saying? — Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Where do you think you might like to live either in reality or in your imagination?
Actually, I’m pretty fond of Santa Fe. Tucked into the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the northern part of the state, it’s ground zero for magical realism, half in this world, half in another.
What is your occupation? What do you do in real life? — I’m retired now, was a psychologist and teacher for a lot of years.
What advice would you give to a young person going into your line of work? — It’s a bit elusive, but if you don’t have good clinical intuition, that is as an instinct, essentially, it’s likely to be a tough run.
Has your occupation influenced your writing? — Doubtless it has. Though no longer practicing, I still think psychologically, can’t seem to help myself. Occupational hazard I guess.
How did you come in contact with Bewildering Stories? — An Internet search as I recall.
Is there anything BwS does particularly well? Of course there’s always room for improvement: is there anything in particular you’d like to see added or changed?
I appreciate BwS’s educational approach, not just as a publication site. I try to be truly helpful in my reviews as a reader, providing detail that might prove useful to the writer.
What do you do in your spare time (aside from reading BwS stories)? — Bunch of stuff. I’m studying Spanish for keeps, garden plenty, read, work out, try to keep up — the usual suspects for a retired guy.
II. About Reading
Is there anything you’d like to tell BwS authors to do or not do?
I know this is said so much that it risks being hackneyed, but it’s hard to overstate the importance of a clean manuscript: no typos, no big grammatical errors, getting the basic mechanics down. If not, such distractions can obscure the impact of an otherwise good or at least talented story, and that’s wasteful and regrettable.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of working as an Editor for Bewildering Stories?
I enjoy being part of a literary process, from both sides, both as a writer and a reader. And as I said, I appreciate being part of an educational experience. Least favorite? No surprise here: reading a sloppy manuscript.
What’s your favorite book? What’s the last book that you read and really enjoyed?
Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem probably endures as my favorite book. I find her a smart, accessible social essayist. Last book: I’m currently reading a perceptive biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine that’s proving worth the read.
Who are your favorite authors, and what about their works appeals to you most? — Devoted to Fitzgerald. What a beautiful wordsmith he was.
If you could be any character (other than one of your own) from a book or movie, who would it be? Why?
I have an affinity for a handful of Austen’s protagonists: complex, upright guys who know how to ride a horse and defend an honor. Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensibility comes immediately to mind.
Do you have any favorite authors at Bewildering Stories? Have you found there any works you’d recommend to a friend? — I’m still exploring, kind of the new kid on the block.
If you could invite any other writer to dinner, whom would ask? Feel free to choose from any time or place.
Probably Hemingway: extraordinary life, complicated inner world, might teach me now to write a good, short, declarative sentence.
III. About Writing
How long have you been writing? — Since high school, if memory serves.
What made you want to start writing? — Nothing feels quite as good as the creative process; that is, when I can access it.
Do you have a favorite among your works? Of your titles at BwS, which one you would recommend first to someone who hasn’t read you yet?
Reflecting on this, I don’t think I have a favorite, though I certainly have some I like less well than others. My style has changed over the years, for better or worse, so I really don’t have a piece that I feel is representative of my work that I’d recommend to someone.
Do you have a favorite character in your own stories? In some other writer’s?
My poetry is largely confessional or otherwise intimately observational about the world, the world I live in. I write about what strikes me as important enough to write about, so I don’t have characters, no literary creations in that respect.
Almost every writer is inspired by someone or something else. What inspirations have you found? Where do you get your ideas?
Using spare, beautiful, powerful language to convey what I sense is my aspiration, though I’m often not satisfied with the results, I haven’t captured fully what I intended. I write about what matters to me, can’t write about what doesn’t, have no interest in trying. Important stuff hits me all the time, just walking around the world being aware, sensate to beauty, the human condition, grace.
In composing a story, which do you think of first: the plot or the characters? — Doesn’t apply to me as a poet.
What do you consider the strangest thing you’ve ever written?
An odd piece that juxtaposed my life with that of a young man I met at a holiday party, the stark recognition of the passage of time, the chasm that separated us because of that.
What do you consider the most revealing thing you’ve ever written? — Whew, way too much to sift through to come up with an answer to that.
[Editor’s note: “Born on a Friday in March,” in this issue, seems to be a good place to start.]
Most writers have a particular audience in mind, although it may change from one work to the next. Who are your audiences? For whom do you write?
Though it means something to me to have others read my work, and it can mean a great deal, in fact, I think I write for myself for the most part, at least in the sense of creating a piece of work that’s well crafted and substantive, that I can be proud of, that’s communicated what I meant to say, and did so effectively, i.e., the reader understood, maybe was even moved somehow, affected in some way or other.
What would you like readers to learn or gain from what you write? — That the world is worth engaging, and all that that implies, which is plenty.
Where do you write? — Wherever I am, pretty much, if I can.
When do you write: at set times or as the mood moves you?
If I try to discipline my writing, do so as a regimen, it comes out varying shades of dreck. For me, it’s all about the muse.
Some writers say they have to write a certain amount every day. Do you do set a quota? — See above reference to dreck.
Do you ever have a problem with writer’s block? If so, can you offer other writers tips on how to deal with it?
The whole creative process for me is ineffable and fugitive, and maddeningly evanescent: here one moment, gone the next minute. But when I find that sweet spot, nothing’s better.
Do you use the Internet or the library to check facts? — Not really. Again, I write confessional poetry, not really an issue.
Does anyone else proofread or critique your work? — Sometimes my partner, otherwise no.
Some authors have said that their parents were supportive of their efforts when young, and some have said they had to sneak around and hide. What was the case with you? — Supportive down the line.
Some authors have started writing later in life. If that’s the case with you, what brought you to writing rather than to some other activity? — I’ve written off and on since adolescence, the tug’s been there for a long time.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks for the spur to reflect on what I’m trying to do as a writer; usually don’t focus much on the process, that is, my process as a writer. Appreciate the opportunity.
Copyright © 2016 by James R. Rudolph