Award winning author to present reading, says love of reading and diligence are key to writing success
A lot of writers dream of winning awards, writing the “great American novel” and working from home without having to check in at a day job.
Award winning novelist Kevin Brockmeier has achieved just that. He sits patiently drinking his Italian soda at a tall wooden table at Guillermo’s Gourmet Grounds in West Little Rock for yet another interview after winding up his spring book tour for his most recent novel “Illumination.”
“After I got my first book contract it seemed to me that for at least a little while I had enough money to write full time and that I should try to do it, if I could, and basically I’ve been able to keep that going since then,” he said, “with occasional breaks to teach [at Iowa Writer’s Workshop] and do other things.”
After Brockmeier earned his MFA from the Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop program at the University of Iowa he returned to Little Rock and taught first English composition and then creative writing at UALR and Pulaski Technical College for several years. He will return this spring to teach at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
Brockmeier immerses himself in his craft, reading about 175 books per year and working every day when in the middle of a project as to not interrupt the rhythms. He attributes his success in his craft to his love of reading and a good working diligence. “I am baffled when I run across people who want to write fiction for a living who aren’t interested in reading,” he said. “I am inspired by the books that I have loved, and I continue to discover books that … shine a light forward for me.” Brockmeier said he believes that reading informs his writing and vice versa and has allowed him to develop an instinct for the technical and an intuition for the creative.
Working sentence by sentence, refusing to “maroon a sentence” in a sloppy first draft, Brockmeier spoke of a “simmering dissatisfaction” and a refusal to get too enamored with his own work. “I have enough diligence to demand of myself to write only sentences that I respect,” he said.
Brockmeier’s work has an element of fantasy and suggests an intimacy with pain and death. In his latest novel “Illumination” the characters’ physical injuries and ailments are illuminated for all to see; shining, even through their clothes. He weaves in intimate details of how each character lives with, thinks about and describes their pain. “A lot of good fiction writing arises from empathy,” Brockmeier explained. “If you allow your heart to go out to other people around you then, I think, you can understand an awful lot about the lives that people live and the pain that they are forced to endure and the joys in which they are gifted.”
Brockmeier’s latest project is an adult novel called “Seventh Grade.” The first section of the book is published in this month’s issue of Oxford American. He said it is the closest he has come to novel length, non-fiction. It is a novel based on his experiences.
Brockmeier will be presenting a reading from his latest novel Illumination, at 6:30 Tuesday, Sept. 20 in the Stella Boyles Smith Concert Hall.