Saturday, March 16, 2019

Interview with Ryan Quinn Flanagan

Question 1:
How would you describe yourself to your readers off the page?

Of late I am a full-time shoveller of snow with silly Popeye arms from all the effort.  But other than that I am a quiet unassuming small town Canadian who lives a fairly humble life up in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with my wife and the bears that walk down the street.  Off the page I much prefer a quiet life of near solitude and as little drama as possible.

Question 2:
As an avid lover of music are there any bands that have significantly influenced your writing style?

I don’t know if there are any bands that have directly influenced my writing, but they certainly play a major part indirectly in writing and setting the mood and everything else I do.  I believe music is the finest of the arts and there are just so many bands/artists that have been formative for me such as:  Velvet Underground/Lou Reed, Nine Inch Nails, Johnny Cash, the Pixies, Ministry, Tom Waits, Muddy Waters, Joy Division, Leonard Cohen, The White Stripes, Nirvana, Bjork, Lead Belly, Smashing Pumpkins, Portishead, Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Led Zeppelin, Bauhaus, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Black Sabbath, Guns N Roses, Radiohead, The Beatles, Queen, Megadeth, The Ramones, Pink Floyd, The Stooges, Hank Williams Sr., Howlin’ Wolf, The Melvins, White Zombie, REM, Cream, The Tea Party, Weezer, Stone Temple Pilots, CCR, Rage Against the Machine, MC5, Bob Marley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Beck, Bowie etc.  There are just so many but those are some I can think of off the top of my head.  There is just so much good music out there to last many lifetimes.

Question 3:
Does your knowledge of history inspire any aspects of your work?

It certainly does.  Even if I am just using historical references for satire or to make a comparison, I find that history filters into a lot of my writing.  My early writing was filled with historical references which were really the backbone of the work and as I’ve gone on the history has taken a bit of a backseat but I find it is still always there filtering through in one form or another.

Question 4:
What is your least favorite part of writing?

Editing.  I love writing and would do it every day if I could and I don’t mind assembling works, but I can’t stand editing.  I know it is a very important part of the thing and I do it, but man I can’t even explain how much I hate the editing process!

Question 5:
Out of your current body of work which book are you the most proud of writing?

Hahaha, they are all my babies and like any parent, they won’t tell you they play favourites even though we all do.  For me, it switches over time so there is no consistent favourite.  I think if you’d ask most writers though, they will tell you it is the work they are doing at the moment.  Not because they are trying to be coy or anything, but simply because that is where their current headspace is at and where all their energy is presently directed.

Question 6:
Do you ever envision yourself writing something outside of poetry?

I have written one collection of short stories, but I would really love to write a novel.  I just haven’t built up the courage yet to go all in.  I started one and wrote the start and the end (4 pages) and it has sat there for almost two years now.  I’m sure I will get back to it when I feel brave enough to do so, but staying focussed on a single consistent narrative or mindset for any period of time is very tough for me.  I get distracted easily and like to jump around.  Even in single poems I will wander around a bit and jump all over the place.  So writing a novel seems like Everest to me.

Question 7:
Is there anything in your time as a writer that you would have done differently?

There was no way for me to know at the time, but when I was starting out I wish I could have understood my market earlier and not cast such a wide net.  I could have saved myself a few 1000 rejections and many more you just never even hear back from.  A world of headaches could have been avoided if I understood my market more.  But it was tough back then, well before the days of the internet.  Everything was hardcopy mail out with Self Addressed Stamp gig and it was costly and time consuming and you almost never heard back.  When you did, maybe one in every twenty or thirty was an acceptance.  The market has opened up a lot since then and is far different.  But yeah, I wish I could have somehow known my market and the pitfalls of buying that giant book of publications and sending out largely blind.

Question 8:
In what ways would you like to improve or change yourself as a person or as a writer?

I always try to be a good person first and foremost.  I try to be as loyal and truthful and kind as I can be.  Personally, I would like to improve my self-confidence as a person.  I think we are all wounded in some way and some of us are very honest in our writing about that fact, but yes, more self-confidence would be something I have to work on both as a person day-to-day and with my writing.  Ego is horrible so a certain amount of self-doubt can be helpful in always remaining humble and grounded, but I certainly have too much self-doubt which I let bring me down and negatively affect my mental health more than I would like. 

Question 9:
What are your ultimate goals as a creator?

To create something new and something you are proud of.  I think that’s what everyone wants to do.  Chase the golden line as they say, the golden poem.  And to come as close as you can as many times as you can.  I never stop trying and I guess that’s part of the sickness that people talk about.  The high you get early on and trying to get back there again and again.

Question 10:
Does the renown you have in the writing community give you any sort of anxiety or impact your life in any negative ways?

Hahaha, I don’t know about any renown or anything, but being out there and visible in the writing community does cause some personal anxiety to me.  I am on medications for various forms of anxiety as well as other things that are hardly all be the fault of writing, but when you put yourself out there as we all do trying to create than there is a certain level of stress that comes with the territory.  Lots of early rejections helped me grow a thick skin about that part of it so that isn’t really a problem anymore.  It is more creating and putting yourself out there so nakedly that can be tough to deal with.  In truth though, we are all going through much the same thing and most are very supportive and understanding about that.

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