INtroducing . . . Steve Chappell and Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer
By Penelope Jensen
Every issue, IN presents INside Authors, a look at authors from around the world who have significantly caught our attention and deserve a little space and recognition. The following two authors are this month's choices, based on the heat arising from their corners. Our hope is to provide a glimpse, a snapshot, an overview of some of the finest writers of our time making waves both tidal and ripple.
Steve Chappell,Fiction Author
Background INfo:I had been a Benedictine monk, a member of a religious order, and several of us taught in a school; I taught religion classes, among other subjects, and I was on the lookout to find ways to make it interesting and sidestep the treacle that they wanted taught from the religion textbooks that we had (very dull and the kids hated them). I came up with the idea of stories with a moral that would engage my students in discussion of issues that were important to them and used as my guide writers like the Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav among other mystics because their stories were an interesting way to get a message across. The kids really liked them and, once a week, I would spin out a new story. After several months of this, some of them began telling me I should write them down and that was the genesis of my first book, Dragons & Demons, Angels & Eagles (not, by the way, my original title and I still don’t like it!). I have subsequently left the order and am now very, very happily married.
INfluences: My influences were and are mystics from a wide background: Jewish, Catholic, secular (science fiction writers are amazing mystics). My favorite writers include Carlos Castaneda, Robert Heinlein, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien.
Advice: Develop a thick skin: you’re going to get a lot of rejection letters when you’re first trying to get published. However, look at what they’re saying. If you really want to be published (especially for the first time) you’d best let go of a little ego and address the criticisms potential editors see in your work . . . especially if they’re saying the same thing a lot. I nearly rewrote my first book and cut several stories based on early rejections and then the revised edition was picked up by the first publisher I sent it to.
Internet Presence: I don’t have a website and don’t plan to at this point.
The Future: I have no plans for a project in active development. I’m kicking around an idea for a novel about a post-apocalyptic vision of humanity being superseded by a different species, but nothing is on paper right now.
Dragons & Demons, Angels & Eagles, Ligouri Publications 1990 Voyage of the Peregrin, CSS Publishing 1996 The Tales of Caer Alban, The Fiction Works 2003
Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, Fiction Author
Background INfo: I'm a fifth generation or more Irish-Anglo Canadian, born and raised on a large property outside Ottawa. My neighbours were hunters, farmers, hippies, horse racers, and city commuters, and I went to school with their children. I learned how to read before I went to kindergarten and by grade one was already writing little stories. I went to university to study English literature in a veiled attempt at learning how to write. I didn't dare say I wanted to be a writer. It seemed like a very arrogant dream to me at the time – how dare I want that? I guess I became a writer by sheer determination.
INfluences: I had a few older relatives who were supportive of me being an artist, because I could draw. I recall telling my old aunt Dorothy when she asked if I still liked to draw, that I was writing. She said that was okay, but I shouldn't waste my God-given talent. I remember my grade seven teacher was very supportive of my writing, and I had a high school drama teacher, Mr. Bell, who kept handing me books he thought I should read. He handed me Richard Brautigan, Kurt Vonnegut, and Tom Robbins. I'm certain if he did that these days he'd be in trouble with the politically correct brigade. The first sentence in the Tom Robbins as I recall is "If this typewriter can¹t do it, then fuck it." I had never read anything like that before. I thought, "Okay, it doesn't have to be all dense and flowery." I still like writers who can say it in fewer words, who don't powder the text too much. I like Richard Ford, Flannery O'Connor, Margaret Drabble, Muriel Spark, Ford Maddox Ford, Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, Kingsley Amis, Beryl Bainbridge, John Updike, and Alice Munro. I've enjoyed Blaise Cendrars, John Fante, Charles Bukowski, Knut Hamsun, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, an enjoyment that led one of my more attentive university profs (Dr David Rampton at the University of Ottawa, who was brilliant, by the way) to point out that I seemed to like all the misogynists! It wasn't the misogyny I liked, of course, but the straight-ahead technique, to lesser and greater degrees, of these writers. I thought I could maybe write like that if I worked really hard at it.
Advice: Young writers I teach often have very little grammar background. I advise anyone who wants to be a writer of fiction to learn the basic rules of punctuation and the established formal rules of how to format dialogue, that sort of thing. I would also suggest that beginning writers look at their early work as exercises; it makes it all less stressful and more playful. Find someone preferably a working writer who can help you judge whether a work is ready for publication. Also, study the writings of those writers you admire. There is no better education.
Internet Presence: I work as an editor at www.Bookninja.com and have my own website at www.KathrynKuitenbrouwer.com. The former, an irreverent daily literary news blog, as well as a regular literary magazine, gives me a daily presence and readership, although I sometimes worry that readers have no idea I've published a short story collection and a novel. Still, it is a pretty recognizable calling card for industry people and many readers and writers. The latter gives me some control over what readers find on the World Wide Web when they seek me. I feel this is worthwhile. The personal website is the portal I give to people when they ask about my work so it works as a calling card, too.
The Future: I just returned from a trip to the Southeast of New Mexico where I spent a week researching a novel I am working on. It is tentatively called Manual For Secret-Keeping. I am projecting its completion by year's end (end of 2006). I'll be teaching creative writing at the University of Toronto and at Ryerson University this year in their continuing education departments.
The Nettle Spinner, Goose Lane Editions, 2005 Way Up: stories, Goose Lane Editions, 2003
Penelope Jensen considers herself a citizen of the world, aligning herself at this moment with the purposes of IN, where you'll find her writing articles and interviewing authors, among other things. You can reach Penny at:PenJen@inorbit.com.