Monday, May 23, 2011

Interview with Author Karl Larew

This week I would like to welcome back Author Karl Larew, my guest blogger from last week. Karl has agreed to answer some questions for us today, and like me I think you will find him to be a very interesting man. Karl has also offered us a copy of his novel `Candles`, winners choice, you can have and e-book or a print copy. All Karl asks is that the winner leaves a review of his novel on Amazon. So to enter...just leave a comment here stating your preference of e-book type (kindle, e-pub, ect) or print. Over the weekend I will place all entries in a hat for my daughter to draw and will contact the winner as well as announcing their name in the comment section of the blog.

Before we begin I would just like to thank Karl for joining us for a second week. Thanks so much for doing this Karl.Bow without further ado.

What will readers find notable in your book?

            Some of my readers have remarked upon the nostalgia element in Candles in the Window, but most of those who have commented have been more impressed by the leading female character, “Silky,” whose charisma makes her a “standout,” to quote from a review in the Baltimore Sun.  Yet, despite her extraordinary charisma, the book is a realistic portrayal of 1950s college life.

Is there an anecdote that might illustrate what you’re saying?

            That same reviewer—I should add, in a review of the first, 1999, edition, which, however, is virtually identical to the present edition—anyway, that same reviewer refused to believe that the book was really fiction.  He believed that “Silky” must have been an old “flame” of mine.  No, it is a work of fiction; although, like most writers, there are bits and pieces of real people in the book.

Did writing this book influence your thinking about life, or fiction, or both?

            I think it was the other way around.  My philosophy of life, before I wrote, had room for a certain fatalism but also a certain respect for contingency.  And a certain puzzlement over the nature of “Truth” itself. That sounds pompous when put that way, but I hope readers will see what I mean.

What should readers tell other, potential, readers about “Candles”?

            That they can read it as a nostalgia piece if they want, but also that it has several layers of meaning in the psychological sense.  Warn them that “Candles” is, in the words of one reader, “brutally frank” about college sex lives in the 1950s—but there is, in another reader’s words, a lot of tenderness as well.

What one question might readers find interesting about you or your book?

            Why did it take me from 1963 to 1994 to write this book?  Of course, I often took as much as a decade off from working on it, but still….

Why do you write?

            I’m 74 years old and I started “writing,” in a sense, when I was about 8 years old—when I started drawing my own comic strips.  Writing makes me feel good.  I like lecturing to my history classes and I like it when people read what I’ve written, non-fiction as well as, especially, fiction. 

What is your greatest strength as a writer?

            I try to see the world through the eyes of my characters, honestly, faithfully.  I think I’m pretty good at dialogue.  I’m not much interested in plots in the conventional sense, but I hope that makes what I have to say important in an unconventional way.  Again, that sounds pompous, but I can’t think of a better way to put it, except to ask my readers to approach my books with an open mind; my “serious” books, I mean—my spoofs are, I think, I hope, well plotted in the conventional sense.

What quality in yourself do you most value?

            In my role as writer, probably that honesty I spoke of, and the empathy I have for my characters—and I hope my readers will empathize with the characters as well.

What are you passionate about?

            I eat, sleep, and breathe history, especially military history; teaching college students history has been my calling for about 50 years.  Outside of that, I am passionate about music.  My tastes are many and varied.  For about 60 years I’ve been obsessed with the great operatic tenor Enrico Caruso (died 1921) and—and here’s the “varied” bit—the “father of country music,” Jimmie Rodgers (died 1933).  And a lot more besides—old Hawaiian music, for example, and baroque.  But maybe you mean “passionate” as relates to my writing.  I have three historical novels on the market, and, emotionally, they mean more to me than the two spoofs I’ve written about vampires and werewolves—though I enjoyed writing those, too.  It’s odd that my best novel—in my opinion—is “Candles,” which is not historical except in the sense that it’s set in the 1950s.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

            I guess it’s pretty obvious that “Candles” ranks way up there.  But I guess when all is said and done it’s my teaching that makes me the proudest in terms of “accomplishing” things.  If one includes personal relationships, I would say I’m proudest, or at least happiest, about my marriage.

What author do you consider the most striking?

            Lawrence Durrell, for his Alexandria Quartet, no contest.  He has influenced my thinking about life and art—and influenced “Candles,” along with Freud.  Oddly, I don’t like most of Durrell’s other works, nor do I admire his personality, nor do I like is—how can I explain it?—his non-historical outlook.  But the Quartet shines forth despite all that.  

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