Alright, to switch it up…something different, an interview of the Blue Lines author Kenneth A. Suffern, Jr.
I: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
KS: I am not sure if it was my knowing that I wanted to be a writer, but in the mid eighties, while in parochial school. A student wrote a science fiction story that incorporated all of the students within our 7th grade class. I was amazed at the project, not by the product of his work, but the ability to weave a story and incorporate students, teachers, and faculty into a cohesive story. Within the same year, I tried to resurrect his story in a creative writing piece, but failed miserably. After that, I was not sure that I necessarily wanted to write, but slowly transitioned into writing prose.
I: How long does it take you to write a book?
KS: Blue Lines took about 2 years to write, around 1998 – 2000, but being my first work, and also a cathartic release I have recently began the process of trying to shop it.
I: What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
KS: Honestly I cannot say that I have a set schedule. When I first began writing, I had no computer therefore my writing was primarily set around having access to a computer, part time jobs, sitting at the front desk while working, etc. Well that, and any paper that I had around, though my preference was using a computer.
I: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
KS: I can’t really think of any. Depending on the scenes I’m working on, I may wear clothing from the locations that the scene may be taking place, or from the characters home.
I: Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
KS: With my first work, my main manuscript Blue Lines I initially had the concept of writing my “love” story to Hip-Hop music, with a love story between two characters as the drivers of that story. The story lay stagnant for quite some time, and I later drew from real experiences, or rather built the manuscript primarily from real life. My other projects have markedly less material drawn from my personal life.
I: When did you write your first book and how old were you?
KS: I began Blue Lines around the age of 22.
I: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
KS: Too much to outline…I guess traveling.
I: What does your family think of your writing?
KS: I try to stay away from opinions, and honestly am not truly sure. I’m quite sure once published, then I will be more apt to listen.
I: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
KS: I think the day that I realized that I had produced 330+ pages worth of material, I was shocked and had to sit back, and actually try to wrap my mind about what I had done. It began as one big piece of work, and later I had to break it into chapters. But when I realigned those chapters, I was amazed that I had done that.
I: How many books have you written?
KS: I have fully written one, and I have two additional manuscripts that have outlines and chapters written, and a fourth that lives in outline alone.
I: Which is your favorite?
KS: Blue Lines is definitely my favorite, because I have so many scenes that I can remember experiencing while I wrote it. I am not specifically alluding to the friendship that led to me writing it, but simple things like driving from my apartment south of Atlanta to the city, and while at Starbucks drinking my coffee and pacing my eating of a toffee bar, sitting out in the rain and constructing one of my favorite rainy scenes from the manuscript. While an elderly woman asked for space at my table and smoked while drinking her coffee. There are so many scenes that I can read that bring back many memories of this first writing process.
I: Do you like to create books for adults?
KS: At this time in my life, I would prefer to write more adult content (READ: not mature content, but not children’s books), but definitely not mature or questionable material.
I: What do you think makes a good story?
KS: I think love is a universal concept, believable concepts, themes, and characters. I do not believe in segmenting my work for a specific genre.
I: As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
KS: A lawyer, but with that said, it was a dream without a reference of what that life would actually be.
I: Is any part of your novel autobiographical?
KS: Much of Blue Lines is taken from an autobiographical context, but due to it being a fictional piece based on true events, I have the artistic license to create an original story. Yes I had a basis, but while writing, I can make a different choice than I had, and explore that as a story arc. I could also draw from several “real” experiences to create a new fictional storyline.
I: If so, are you able to share an example with our readers?
KS: Blue Lines is, for lack of a better term, a love story based on a friendship/love that I had had. Because the work is not yet published, I cannot give examples of actual pieces of the work.
I: Describe your desk/workspace.
KS: Order within chaos, I still have to reorganize my office from the tornado in 2005 (just extra boxes, but I still work in it just fine).
I: Favorite books (especially for writers).
KS: When I was younger A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle was one of my favorite works. The Narnia series was a childhood favorite, as is Paulo Coehlo’s The Alchemist (Thanks Kat), and anything by Sonia Sanchez or Nikki Giovanni.
I: Favorite quote.
KS: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana
I: Best and worst part of being a writer.
KS: The worst is that I haven’t been paid for it yet, and that to create a work such as this was cathartic, but painful and very hard to let go of. I have heard writers say the first one is like sending off a child. I have to also say the public aspect of being able to sell myself. I tend to be very private, and have even used my main male character’s name as a pseudonym when using social networking sites to progress my work.
The best…being able to look at the work and say, “I did that!”
I: Advice for other writers.
KS: I’m still looking for advice.
I: Looking back, did you choose the writing profession or did the profession choose you?
KS: It hasn’t made its choice just yet.
I: When did you ‘know’ you were a writer?
KS: I knew I was a writer, when I saw that the words I was stringing together elicited a response from someone other than myself. Here are a few examples after I had allowed a sample to be read:
TW: I THINK AS THE READER THE AUTHOR OF THIS SAMPLE JUST WROTE WHAT HIS OR HER HEART TOLD THEM TO. YES LORD I DO IDENTIFY WITH KLW. WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO WRITE ABOUT A WOMEN AND NOT A MAN?
MET: The scene was very real. Actually, it was a little too real. I’ve been in her position. It reminded me of one of the darkest times in my life.
MFB: It’s very interesting and drawing.
BP: Very intriguing!! The suspension on the first three pages is good; it makes me want to read on.
The manuscript Blue Lines is a fictional period piece, written by Kenneth Anthony Suffern, Jr., that takes place at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill between the years of 1997 – 1998. Loosely based on true events, and experiences during that time, told through the eyes and voice of the main female protagonist, a freshman first attending the school.
Post your questions for part 2 of the interview.