One of our goals at Every Day Fiction is to encourage dialogue with our authors. This month, we launched the EDF Forums with that goal in mind, and we also committed to interviewing our most-read authors.
Chris graciously agreed to be interviewed by Every Day Fiction. If you have any further questions for Chris, feel free to ask them in the comments.
Interview with Christopher Kastensmidt
CK: If I may, please let me begin by saying what an honor it is to have been selected for Every Day Fiction’s first interview. I was shocked by the number of people who viewed “Between the ‘Sheets'” last month. Writers publish to be read (otherwise we’d leave the stories in our drawers), so every time someone reads one of my stories it means a lot to me.
EDF: What should people expect when they see a story with your byline under it?
CK: My work includes mostly fantasy but also some mainstream, surreal, and science fiction. Satire makes up about half what I write and all of what I’ve sold so far, so until editors begin buying my serious work, I suppose readers can expect lighthearted satire.
EDF: Which authors do you feel have influenced your writing the most?
CK: Better to list which authors have most influenced my reading, because I’d rather not insult them by implying any similarity between my writing and theirs. That being said, a short list would include Kurt Vonnegut, Tolkein, John Kennedy Toole, Dumas, James Clavell, Stephen R. Donaldson, and Lawerence Watt-Evans. In Portuguese, Luis Fernando Verissimo writes some wonderful satire and, if you can find a copy, I highly recommend Zero by Ignacio de Loyola Brandao, a book written during the last military dictatorship in Brazil. It will blow your mind. I’ve been reading a lot of short fantasy and science fiction the last few years and Paul E. Martens (satire) and Ricard Parks (fantasy) have both made quite an impression on me.
EDF: In your opinion, what are some of the essential elements of good storytelling?
CK: I’m less rigid in this kind of definition than many others. Some of my stories, for example, have circular plots and unsympathetic protagonists. Guess what? No one buys them. What I want is a story that elicits some kind of emotional response from the reader: happiness, sadness, love, hate, etc. If someone cracks a smile or even curses me after reading one of my stories, mission accomplished.
EDF: What has been your best moment as a writer so far? Your worst?
CK: My best moment occurred when I finished writing a complete novel. Even though I put it aside afterwards, I proved to myself that I could take a major writing project from start to finish, which gave me the needed confidence to write more. Before that, I had begun three other novels that I never finished. Every time I stopped a job in the middle, it took me a couple of years to work up enough courage for another try. Moral of the story: no matter how bad it is, finish it. It will make it that much easier to finish the next one.
My most disappointing rejection came from a closed anthology. I was invited to write two stories for consideration. In the end, both were rejected. It was an embarrassing experience, as if I’d somehow let down both myself and the editors. But, putting things into perspective, that’s not all that bad an experience. I’d trade a day like that for a lot of others.
EDF: I see from your website that you have a broad range of interests, from writing academic articles on computer processor architecture to writing short fiction. Do you have any tips for other writers on how to balance their writing with their other responsibilities?
CK: Balance is something I struggle with myself, but I would like to say that I think it’s the key to everything in life. The best stories seem to come from personal experiences and drawing relationships between two completely different fields. Just look at the way “Between the ‘Sheets'” connects spreadsheets and sex.
EDF: Where and when do you write? What music or other background noise do you prefer, or silence? And does the physical / background environment influence or affect your writing?
CK: I’m fairly adaptable in this sense. If I’m in a noisy environment, I tend to listen to music. More specifically, I try to choose music which has some relationship to the story, giving me a type of “soundtrack” to work with. Otherwise, I work in silence.
What I’ve noticed has a much greater effect than environment is mood. When I’m depressed for personal or professional reasons, I can’t produce. I need to find a way around that.
EDF: What is next for you as a writer?
CK: I just returned from the Viable Paradise workshop where I met a phenomenal group of talented, wonderful people. Now I need to digest everything I learned there and apply it to my writing. I have a novel that’s nagging me to write it, about fifteen short stories I’m still trying to sell, and a boxload of ideas for other projects.
Thanks again to everyone who read “Between the ‘Sheets’“!
Every Day Fiction thanks Christopher Kastensmidt for the interview, and also thanks all the readers who read and commented on our stories throughout the month of September.