What’s your writing background, when did you begin writing and what inspired you?
I have been telling stories since well before I could write. Writing and storytelling are just parts of who I am and where I am from. I love reading, and I love hearing stories. And for myself, I feel like I am able to open up and share so much that I want to bleed out into the world much better through stories than through actual sharing. Something about the trimmings and trappings of writing gives me the ability to communicate deeper and stronger truths than simply talking about my feelings ever could. I feel like writing is a true and pure form of communication.
I have been inspired by my family, and loved ones to write because so many of them have. When I was younger, I found so much safety and comfort in books that I feel I owe it to the world of literature to try to give back a little bit of the comfort I have taken from it for myself.
As for my background, well, I have won a few awards for short fiction and poetry in the past, and I took a focus in college in American Literature. While I attended The Evergreen State College, I had some stories published in student papers and collective zines, and spent a lot of class time honing my skills as an author. And with In Stark Weather, my sixth novel, I feel like I have reached a sort of zenith in my career thus far, one that I hope leads to more focused and exacting writing.
How often do you write, and how do you manage to fit in writing among other commitments?
I work here and there as a counsellor for trauma and abuse victims, but as that is a schedule based around a few people’s needs, I have a lot of flexible time. I spend that working with a food outreach group that a few friends and I run, as well as working as a critic through www.horror-punks.com and writing music and painting. It sounds like a lot when I write it all out, but really each one of these activities is incredibly important for me in different ways. I really get to feed myself from each of these things, and though sometimes I can find myself buried in work, or feeling like there just aren’t enough hours in the day, I wouldn’t give up any of them. They are all extensions of my art that I feel like I need to be doing. I write when I feel the need, which can be for hours on end, day after day, or not at all for a few days. I like to rotate music, painting, and writing in a way that keeps me yearning for them. I make music, and in the meantime I want to write, and so I finish the music I am working on to write, which makes me want to paint, and so on and so forth. It keeps everything fresh for me. I feel like I am very lucky to be able to devote myself so wholly to all these things.
In which genre do you most enjoy writing?
I would say that the genre I most enjoy writing in would be called something rambling and vast like ‘emotionally charged literary trauma’… I have been classified as literary horror, or psychological thriller, and even emotional drama… I have a hard time giving it a label, and while that sounds like the most ‘oooh I’m such a fancy author’ trash, it really is how I feel. In Stark Weather has gripping and terrifying moments, but it is rooted in reality and in plausibility. It also has, what I hope are, touching and charming moments. So it isn’t ‘horror’, and it isn’t ‘drama’, it is a sort of combination.
What draws you to write in that genre?
I write in the style I do because it feels the most natural. I hate to read books (or watch movies, for that matter) that aim to be a genre piece. I want to experience art that flirts with genres but pushes itself to become its own entity. I want my writing to become a monster unto itself, not because of its guide-markers. You know? I want to write what feels honest and what can say the things I feel I need to say, and if that has the taste of horror on its lips, or the hint of comedy, then I will present that. I aim to be as honest as I possibly can as an author, to present the story as it moved through my mind… so I am simply a slave to it.
Currently I am running about talking to people about In Stark Weather, (and here is a cool little ad for it! ) a novel that focuses on three different men, a failed musician striking out to try one last time, an author chasing success that he fears he will never beat, and a man so tormented by abuse and neglect that he has begun coping by giving into horrible acts of violence. The three men all start in different states across America and begin road trips to try and find answers. As they all carve across the country they begin to touch each other’s lives in little ways until they all ultimately become each other’s victims. I really had to wrestle with a lot of things in this book, and I feel like the characters embody a lot of things both within my own life, and within the lives of many people I have worked with in a personal and caring context. They each mirror each other in many ways, but also stand in direct opposition to each other. I have been really happy with the feedback this book has received, and it has kinda given me the confidence to finish work on my next novel, one that I think is a little more… emotionally charged.
What are your writing plans for the future?
I would like to continue writing until I die. I have been able to grow and really better myself so much just by working through stories and ideas in my writing that I think if I were to stop now, I would begin to devolve. I have a few short stories set to appear in a few collections and literary magazines over the next year, which is wonderful, and I have another novel in a drafted form, as well as some ideas for further stories… so I would say that my plans for the future and numerous and, I hope, fruitful. As I revealed publicly for the first time recently, my next novel right now has the working title of Junkyard God With Broken Legs, and it is a little more visceral than In Stark Weather.
Where can people find out more about you?
That depends on what you mean by ‘find more about’ me. I would like to say that they can find out a whole lot about me, maybe even more than I am comfortable sharing, by reading my books, but if they just want updates, info and special deals, they can go to my website, www.charliejackjosephkruger.com and from there they can find links to buy my books (even autographed copies straight from me!) or find me on Facebook as Charlie JJ Kruger. On top of that, they can always simply email me and ask anything they want.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me.