Interview: Tony Rauch

Tony Rauch

Tony Rauch

What was your first experience with writing?

In grade school. I used to write short chapter books and illustrate them. Also drawing pictures which then became stories, only drawn out pictographically. I liked the freedom of expression drawing and writing gave you. You could go anywhere, do anything, and discover or invent anything. When you’re younger there seems fewer rules or limits.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I never have. I guess because I get paid so little for it. Writing is just a hobby, to keep that side of the brain going. If I was being read by thousands and thousands of readers and getting paid for it, then I guess I’d consider myself a “real” writer, or a “professional” writer.

Mostly I think of myself as an artist. I used to paint a lot. But painting is expensive, takes up a lot of space, and once finished a painting will only be seen by a few people. Writing is more democratic. It can be seen by many many people. Writing takes up less space and money. I think of a lot of my stories as paintings, only written down. I’m more of a painter or designer, a conceptual artist, but with words.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I helped start a journal that needed content. So I was always feeding them stories. I kept getting ideas and curiosity about form and structure, about content and mixing genres. So I kept generating material. Finally the journal wanted to put out books and I had a ton of interesting material, so eventually they formatted those stories into book form and that became my first book. So I guess it was knowing the right people, hanging out in the right circles, and having a volume of material to draw from that resulted in my first book. Also the press had a desire to publish that type of material, and it was of good quality and original.

I was more concerned about building a body of work, like a painter or composer would I guess, than constantly thinking about a single collection of stories. I guess I was operating on a broader level. Mostly because there’s always a “Well, now what?” factor involved with these things. Once a book is published, you have to have something else to do, to work on. So I made sure I had several series of stories I could try to get published. This seems to work for me, and I always like that there is something next, another bridge to cross, more stories to look forward to.

Do you see writing as your career?

I would not be able to support myself on writing alone. Maybe if I was also teaching, though teaching jobs are rare here. For me that would be a daunting challenge. It seems like there are many things impeding that progress. It is a very competitive and crowded field. I’m very isolated living in Minneapolis. Who would ever hear of me? How would they hear of me? How could I create, reach, and grow an audience? Most readers don’t read short stories. And I work in a niche genre, not a broad, general one (things are bleak, I’m doomed. Oh, wait, no. no I’m not. I feel ok. I think I’ll be fine).

If I wrote on assignment, then I would be writing what someone else wants or has already thought up. Then it would be work and not Art or a hobby anymore. I would get tired of it. As it is, I can walk away any time and write whatever I want to write. I like that freedom. Plus in my career/day job I am good at what I do and enjoy that work most of the time.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

When I’m really going I write at least an hour a day, if not an hour and a half. That’s probably a good time frame for short stories. In that time there is a sense of purpose and direction in that I have to make that time count. I can make money, but I can’t make more time, so I have to be very efficient. And I have gotten faster at thinking through ideas and typing, so I’m more proficient, more efficient now than I was fifteen years ago, which feels like yesterday.

I can think of things to write about all day long – at work, on the bus, walking my dog, doing the dishes – and then I type that up. So that’s a pretty efficient process and a way to avoid burn-out or writer’s block. That’s what works for me.

The main thing is marketing. I have a publisher that seems committed to my work, at least through the short term. I have more than enough ideas, notes, outlines, and pieces that are started – all stored up. So now the main concern is marketing. There are only so many places to send press releases to and only so many hours to do it in. So that is the crunch at this time – marketing.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Probably the same advice any other writer would give as it is tried and true – Just be yourself. Write what you want, what you like, what you want to see. Don’t copy what has already been done. Bring what you want to the story, what you’re looking for. Put your own ideas in there. Play around with things – form, content, styles. Mix things up. Combine previously unrelated things to create something new. Have fun. Mail me some money. Bake me a cake. Listen to loud rock and roll music. Send your mother and grandmother some flowers. Write every day. Read a lot. Send your work out. And as always, a cake would be nice. I think it would help a great deal.

We are also lucky enough to get some information about Tony Rauch’s new collection that will be out this spring.

–  as i floated in the jar  –

A 177 page short story collection of imaginative, whimsical, dreamy, absurd, surreal fantasy, sci fi, and fairy tale adventures. These fables will make great story starters for young adults and reluctant readers. Some of the pieces are absurdist or surreal adventures that hearken back to imaginative absurdism, sci-fi, and fantasy of the 1950s.

With themes of longing, discovery, secrets, escape, eeriness, surprises, and strange happenings in everyday life, readers will delight in these brief but wondrous adventures –

–  a lonely girl finds a small spaceship in the woods.

–  a stranger extracts a baby from a man waiting for the bus.

–  a farmer invents gadgets to fight off infiltrators leaking in from another dimension.

–  a jar falls from a passing wagon, spilling a strange liquid that turns a mud puddle into something else.

–  a gang travels into the past to escape a regression plague that slowly turns people back into primates.

–  strange creatures abduct a man and try to sell him to a different set of strange creatures.

–  a man gets a verbally abusive amorphous blob as a roommate.

These and other adventures await the adventurous reader.

Samples can be found at –

http://trauch.wordpress.com/

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