Welcome to my Monday blog which today features debut author Charles Cross, who has just released his book of poems entitled, If I Settle Down.
Charles Cross lives alone in East Tennessee where he is buried alive underneath the dogged pursuit of credit card companies and unpaid student loans.
Hello Charles, thank you for stopping by to chat with us today. We love to meet, support and get to know new authors here at Rukia Publishing so let's get started.
How long have you been a writer and how did you come to writing?
I’ve always chose it as the primary form of communication. I guess I started writing when I learned the language. I also loved to read more than anything. I think it’s funny how I started with informative non-fiction as a child, and progressed to reading at least two fairy tales a day at the age of twenty-seven. You have to realize that reading was popularized through media when I was a child. We had shows like Reading Rainbow and Wishbone, and movies like The Pagemaster that glorified books.
I remember stumbling upon my school’s library as a child. I felt so small amid the towers of crisp and clean books, recently published, and aged old books with worn and dusty pages. They were like a rampart against Life’s many trifles. I remember falling asleep with a good book in there. My class was gone when I woke up. It didn’t bother me a bit. I grabbed another book and continued till the teacher rushed in, mid-panic attack, and asked, “Dear God! Have you been here the whole time?” The more I read, the more I wanted to be an author. I wanted to create the same effect, to stir emotion and curiosity in someone else.
What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?
Writing is therapeutic. In journals of psychology, we find studies whose results support this method. Whether you’re good at it, or not, doesn’t affect the outcome. So, I see one aspect of writing not only to be enjoyable, but to lead to a healthy lifestyle.
Another thing I love about writing is the archiving aspect. A lot of people overlook this. Everything you write is evidence of your own existence. We are here; we were here. This is what the written word is saying. Digital archiving is just as important. Wonder how many people realize that facebook and twitter are just ways to archive? Like digital diaries of stupendous size.
The worst aspect of writing involves created limitations from our peers. I adore Mark Twain. I love the way he wittingly steps outside boundaries, with his “poetic license,” to grasp some higher truth of society, the world and humanity. I agree with Goethe on this matter: “If one should stop to consider it mechanically, when about to write a poem, one would become bewildered and accomplish nothing of real poetical value.”
What inspires you to write poetry?
I suppose it’s the most therapeutic writing style for me. Dave Eggar, the cellist, performed for a class I attended called American Folk Music at East Tennessee State University. We each got one question to ask after the performance. And, of course, I had the ball-buster, “How would you define art?” For a second, he looked at me and said, “Oh wow!” and then he came back with a most eloquent answer, “The art is only as powerful as the questions you ask yourself while perceiving it.” I would have to give a similar answer as to what inspires me to write. The more I ponder on something, the more likely I am to write about it.
Who or what has had the greatest influence on your writing and why?
No questions about it! My teachers, with all their support and constructive criticism, have, without a doubt, been a huge influence on my writing. During my teen-years, I was obsessed with the beatniks, especially Ginsberg. I still love that style, but my interests have expanded to all era’s and cultures. Anything that interest me will probably have an influence on my writing.
What are 3 of your favourite lines from any of your poems in your new release?
“Dusk prods us to bed, tucked in serenity,
As we kiss the cheek of Mother Persnickety.”
“But I retire, now, without a single regret to pursue,
Only hope that my dreams may live through you.”
“Bulls of ecstasy point their horns toward the Morning
Who listens to the coming tones
In this vast human wilderness.”
Yikes! That’s a bit more than three lines.
Are reader reviews important to you?
Feedback is always a plus whether good or bad. I look forward to it. It’s also important to keep from being sensitive toward reviews. The worst mistake authors make is responding to bad reviews. You need to have a reason for writing outside of impressing people, or getting people to like you. Do you remember the guys in school who tried too hard to seem cool? Ten times out of ten they were the farthest thing from it. This is a similar case.
Do you have a writing schedule? How often do you write?
I might go a month, or two, without writing and then suddenly discover that I am glued to pen and paper. I try to write a little each day, but I don’t strain the thought.
What does your perfect writing environment look like?
Somewhere excluded with a sunset, or waterfall, or both. I love nature in all its magnitude. Anywhere I can find serenity sounds perfect to me. Unfortunately, I often bargain for a crammed apartment attached to a funky smell, and a jealous cat who does not like my attention focused anywhere else.
I write with a cat like that, so I can relate to that!
Who is your target audience?
I don’t really have one. I’ve found that a variety of readers can relate to something I’ve written. And this pleases me to no extent. I try to merge the old with the new; this helps me reach the contemporaries, as well as those deep-seated in the classics.
Linguistics is a passion of mine, so I do have some readers tell me things like, “I’m sure it was good, but some of the words were a little over my head.” I think it’s comical that adults tell me this; but when children have come across a word they were unsure of, they would simply ask, “What’s that mean?” I believe humiliation is crucially in the learning process. It’s the first step. We’ve always got a lot to learn. I humiliate myself to this day for learning’s sake, but not out of pride.
How do you engage your readers?
Empathy is key. I try to practice it on a daily basis. I’ve spent most of my life studying what it is to be human through biology, anthropology, psychology, sociology (the list goes on and on), but we are a species never still. We are all human; this is what we have to keep in mind. I use this to engage readers. I remind them that they are human. And that it’s neither good nor bad.
Do you have any blogs/websites?
Not at the moment…
Well you are welcome to blog here at any time :)
What is your advice to new writers?
Persistence is your best friend. Hey…it’s better than saying “be yourself.” Ok…be yourself.
Who are your favourite authors and what book are you currently reading?
Oh no! There are so many! I will say that Yeats and Mary Oliver have aided me through some pretty rough patches. I do my best not to obsess over any one author; but with Montaigne, it’s extremely difficult. We are talking about a book-crazed history buff times ten…thousand, and with such remarkable insight on matters manifold.
Currently, I am reading In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner. She has renewed my faith in contemporary literature. Her word choice is prodigious and striking on the core of human emotion and the insight to both our frailties and profound strength in character. I actually spouted tears in a restaurant the other day because of something I read.
What would your friends say is your best quality?
I’m accountable when need be. No…they praise me way too much. It’s hard to tell whether it’s because of my qualities or that they rock so hard at being amazing friends.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I dabble with strings and shout and sing with the boys. We do our best to stay out of trouble. I’m currently working on a non-profit online review for Southern Appalachia to bring in art supplies, instruments and books, as well as programs for the arts to rural schools with little funding. It’s called Appalachian Sundry Review. We’re still at an infant stage, but receiving plenty support.
Do you have any other writing projects to tell us about?
I am working on a collection of short stories/parables called The Tales of Phantom Fool. I’ve always wanted to do something along the lines of Arabian Nights, Aesop Fables and Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I’m having a blast with this one. The storyteller, Phantom Fool, is ageless and somewhat of trickster; with this, I am not limited or bound to one time or place. Here is an excerpt from the intro:
“What do we know of phantom tales? Of magical creatures vast and wonderment of all sizes? I speak of plots too deeply buried in the womb of understanding for simple speech to reprimand them. Floating tales of fleeting lives inherited by long walks on The Great Marble -rolling and spinning and dreaming in callow fun- arrive on open ears and minds by an old teller’s worldly tongue.”
If you could share one thing about yourself that you would like readers to know, what would it be?
I have ten toes.
Thank you Sarah Jane, for inviting me to chat with you on your blog.
Great to meet you Charles and thank you for an honest and entertaining interview. We wish you every success with your schools project and we would love an update and maybe some more information on that as the project develops.
I have just finished reading your debut book of poetry, I was hooked from the first one.
Readers, there are 31 poems in this book and you can read my review on Amazon, Goodreads and B&N.
Be sure to comment, share and tweet to support this new author who I am sure we will see a lot more of here at Rukia.
Have a great Monday.
Get your copy of this new release at:
If I Settle Down Poems by Charles Cross
"What I find most compelling about Charles Cross's poetry is his profound relationship with words, his ability to stitch together exquisite images the way a talented quilter brings together pieces of fabric to create something endearing and warm, full of life and history. With his words, Cross plunges us into a world of coonhounds and bothersome flies, revolution, and a timeless sense of place in the Appalachian mountains. His poetic style is rooted in the classics in both form and content, yet Cross manages to breathe new energy into his dreams of Bacchus and gutterpunk, old farmhouses and pecan pie. The final piece, “Joyous Occasion,” hits beautifully hard against the deepest well of emotions in this collection. It is Cross’s homage to his grandmother that brings the reader back to ground, a kind of ineluctable melancholy that reminds us that good poetry always starts with the life experiences that strike deep into the soul."
-Michael Briggs, English Lecturer at East Tennessee State University