WAYNE F. BURKE, AUTHOR OF TURMOIL & OTHER STORIES
Tell us a bit about yourself – something that we will not find in the official author’s bio?
I like much coffee in the morning.
I was born the same month and year Hurricane Edna hit New England.
I have never been married, or divorced.
I do not own a cell phone; do not have a tattoo; have not received an MFA.
I have driven a ten-wheeler (truck).
I have lived in Dublin, Ireland, as well as the USA.
I have not seen a UFO, but I have seen a moose.
Do you remember what your first story (article, essay, or poem) was about and when you wrote it?
The first writing I did for publication were the jokes I wrote and submitted to READER’S DIGEST. I was in Junior High School at the time. In High School I wrote my first short story. Wrote it for my brother to pass in to his English teacher so he could pass freshman English. I do not recall the details of the story. I continued writing, stories and essays, when a college freshman, and submitted some to popular magazines of the day, but without acceptance. By senior year of college my writing interest had shifted to poetry, and my first poetry publication was in a student-run literary magazine. My first story published happened while I was in my 40’s.
What is the title of your latest book and what inspired it?
At the time of selecting a title for my story collection, I viewed my tale, ‘Turmoil’ as the strongest of the bunch. (I have since changed my view. ‘Buddies’ the strongest.) ‘Turmoil’ not only the strongest story, as I thought, at the time of selection, but the title itself, the word, applicable, I believed, and still believe, to the emotional states found in many of the other stories. Not the adolescent angst of ‘Turmoil,’ the story, but each story with its own sort of TURMOIL, and thus, the word itself, I thought, and think, an apt general description of the overall tenor of the collection. Also, the story ‘Turmoil’—a tale of adolescence, as I have said, occupies a central position in the collection, making it a sort of link between preceding stories of childhood themes, and proceeding stories of adult themes. A centrality that, to me, of significance, and lending further reason to make use of it as title.
How long did it take you to write your latest work and how fast do you write (how many words daily)?
I wrote two of the stories in my collection 25 years ago. The rest written since. All have been edited and re-edited. The writing I do fairly quickly; the re-writing is a slow and sometimes tortuous process. I do not do word counts, but am content if I write 4-5 pages of prose in a sitting.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Sometimes I dip my toe in ink and write on the wall as I lie on my back. Sometimes I write on the sand of the beach, using a stick as implement (taking photos before the tide comes). Believe it. Or not. Usually I use a pencil and write on notebook paper. Pencil, not pen, because writing in pencil is slower, and I need to write slowly if I am to write well. Notebook, because a simple matter to tear the sheets out as I navigate my way through multiple drafts to a satisfactory one…Inspiration I have found to be an unreliable motivator. If it does occur I try and capitalize on the urge, meaning write something even if away from my desk (my kitchen table).
If what I am writing interests me I will work regularly at it. If of lesser interest, or I lose interest in whatever I am working at, I will switch to irregular hours of writing effort, and usually write poetry, not prose, as I find the process of writing poetry less demanding of regularity in hours put into the work, and of my attention.
Is writing the only form of artistic expression that you utilize, or is there more to your creativity than just writing?
I have worked as a visual artist: illustration and fine art. My medium pen, pencil, and oil sticks. At a much younger age than presently I was very active in the visual arts, exhibiting and selling my work. Also taking my art, and myself, very seriously. The serious days are long past. Making art, which I still do, I consider not avocation but “hobby.” As a hobby I can report taking great pleasure in doing the work, pleasure I had lost in my serious days. I still do show my work publically on occasion, but am no longer active in exhibiting or selling.
Authors and books that have influenced your writings?
OMG, so many! In prose I learned much from the work of Stephen Crane, Pietro di Donato, Hubert Selby Jr., Henry Miller, William Saroyan, Jack Pulaski, Henry Roth, Karl Ove Knausgaard, James Joyce, Jack Kerouac, James T. Farrell, Flannery O’Connor, Katherine Anne Porter, Katherine Mansfield, and oh, so many more…Theodore Dresier, Sherwood Anderson, Herman Melville, John O’Hara, Richard Wright, Edward Dalhberg, Malcolm Lowry, Charles Bukowski…I could go on and on: Hemingway, Kafka, Faulkner, Celine…I could draw up a list as voluminous of poets. I feel a debt to each prose writer and poet for showing not only how to do the writing but also that it could, despite all circumstances of one’s condition, be done.
What are you working on right now? Anything new cooking in the wordsmith’s kitchen?
I have in progress a memoir/novel hybrid concoction consisting of three “books,” that, hopefully, meld and overlap, thereby completing a “whole”—an integrated work of art. I am unsure presently if the three do indeed “meld” and “integrate” or if I have, instead of “novel,” three, or maybe two, novellas, instead. My hope is that more time spent with the work will reveal to me its true nature.
Did you ever think about the profile of your readers? What do you think – who reads and who should read your books?
I hope for readers who have thought about their life experiences on more than a superficial level. Readers of a deeper sensibility than that provided by superficiality or artifice. Barring this, I will take any literate human being. I send my books out into the world as orphaned children to make their way. My work, I hope, has appeal for the so-called intelligentsia, or educated, as well as the less-educated. Written on intellectual as well as visceral plains, the work can, or could be, enjoyed by the well-versed and unversed. My hope is that the work straddles and connects both high & low cultural positions. Written to connect emotionally as well as intellectually. Whether it does, or not, is a judgement others can make.
Relevance, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. I mean, I am glad when I hear that some reader has found my work relevant to his or her existence or condition, past, present, or future.
Relevance can escape the present and the past but be found at a future date. For example: being introduced as a college student to the work of William Shakespeare, I strongly rejected any relevance of the work to my condition. However, rereading Shakespeare’s work forty years later, I found the work relevant to me. The work had not changed, but I had, and so had my condition. Do I think I am another Shakespeare? No. I only hope that in future, readers who do not find the work relevant to them or their condition presently get a chance to revisit the work—should it still be available!
I do not, when writing, think about the relevance of work I am doing (though I do think about the relevance of the work to magazines/publishers I am submitting to). My hope, and faith too, is that there are readers who will, or can, relate to my work. And if there are such, and I believe there are, my relevance is beside the point (any point). If someone relates to my work, then I have touched them, made a connection, and, no matter how slight, the connection, I have communicated with another. How much relevancy that confers on the relationship is, to return to my initial remark, to the reader to confer.
Do you have any advice for new writers/authors?
I would not presume to give anyone “advice.” I would not give suggestions either, unsolicited. I would, and will, say that I write about what I know about, and that my childhood as well as life-experiences are relevant, in that they can be used as subjects to write about. Until I found my subject matter I remained blocked. Not knowing I had a vein of gold to mine; thinking I was “nobody,” who had done little—certainly nothing worth writing about, I failed to understand the value of my life-experience, such as it was, and is. Failed to see that the quotidian and so-called “common” experience—which were mostly the nature of mine, could be as interesting or glamorous or adventurous, as any celebrated life, of movie star fame, idol, hero, etc., through the writing. The writing itself creates the interest, the drama, if you will, of any life, no matter what circumstances lived under.
How many books do you read annually and what are you reading now? What is your favorite literary genre?
I am as much a re-reader as reader. Some books I return to regularly. The pace at which I read a book varies, depending on what I am trying to get from the text. If reading a book to study an author’s style, syntax, sentence structure, narrative strategies, etc., then the reading is a slow process. If I am reading to glean some information I can go through a book in a short period. So, I might read one book a week, or maybe three or four, depending, as I write, on my purpose in reading.
What is your opinion about the publishing industry today and about the ways authors can best fit into the new trends?
My opinion of the publishing industry is that it is a closed arena. A sign on the door reads NO TRESPASS. The small number of big mega-book publishers present a closed circle. New authors, or even published ones, not welcomed. How writers do enter into the circle—and, obviously, they do, constitutes a mystery to me. Despite my many attempts at admission—using agents, queries, letters, submissions, I have not gained so much as a peek into the inner sanctums of these publishing houses. (I exclude ADELAIDE Pub. from this opinion—thank you for publishing my book!)