Kurt Baumeister is an American novelist and columnist. Pax Americana is his latest published novel.
What is your earliest reading memory?
Reading Go, Dog. Go! with my mom.
Has writing been a conscious choice or a natural thing for you?
Do you have any special habits or rituals when you write?
My habits seem to change over time. I’ve gone through periods where I’ve needed quiet to write; others in which I’ve written at noisy coffee shops.
Do you choose your stories or do the stories/poems choose you?
I believe the creative process begins with the subconscious.
What national books/authors do you enjoy re-reading and why?
I’ve reread Hemingway’s short stories multiple times and I’ve read The Sun Also Rises three times. I’ve also reread a few of DeLillo’s books: White Noise (three times, I think) and Mao II. I tried to reread some Vonnegut but it didn’t hold up so well.
What foreign books/authors do you enjoy re-reading and why?
I reread Michael Moorcock’s Elric books twice in my youth. As an adult, I’ve reread a number of Martin Amis’s novels: London Fields five times, The Information three times, Dead Babies three times. I’ve reread Shakespeare. I’ve read The Book of Revelation several times. That’s one of the greatest, spookiest science fiction novels ever written.
What is so important about fiction?
It helps take our minds off the futility of existence.
Flaubert says he was physically sick when he wrote Emma Bovary’s death. Are you empathetic with your characters?
The concept of empathy for one’s characters is a slippery one. As they are facsimiles of real people—and, perhaps, to a certain extent, stand-ins for people in our lives—we have no choice but to have a certain amount of empathy for them. Ultimately, though, they are constructs, figments of our imaginations. They’re not real and, as such, too much empathy would be unhealthy. Like so many things about writing, one has to operate on multiple levels simultaneously.
Can you cry writing your own poem?
Yes, absolutely. The same is true when writing fiction. Though I’m talking more about tearing up or getting misty-eyed than bawling.
Who is your ideal reader?
Today: Someone with a great imagination and $19.99 in disposable income.
Should writers be embraced by society or should they be exiled?
Is there a God or are there gods for writers?
Maybe, though probably not. God and gods are nice to think about but they don’t stand up to logic. You could make a case that the writer’s “god” should be Truth. You could also make a case that it should be Lies.
What makes a writer a writer?
Tell us about your fiction/poetry.
A keyless riddle, wrapped in a comic mystery, inside a linguistic enigma.
What is the purpose of your writing?
An attempt to hold on to the remaining shreds of my sanity.
How do you really feel about recognition and fame?
This is another one of those where we’re pursuing something and its opposite simultaneously. I think all writers crave recognition and fame on some level.
Are you a satisfied mind or always craving for more?
More always. I don’t think I could keep going without being intellectually engaged.