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Ken Kuhlken

What inspired you to write the short story that was featured in Birds of Passage?
The Light” is about as autobiographical a story as I have ever written. I used to spend lots of time in Tijuana, mostly playing baseball. And the Billy Graham crusade, I recreated from the archives, from the actual night I made my profession of faith.

How long have you been a writer and how did your interest in writing start?
I wrote an awful novella in eighth grade, a couple stories and several poems during high school. Same during college until my senior year when I began writing more seriously.

My interest in writing probably came from my grandma, in whose house I grew up. She was a poet, a painter of the California Plein Air school, and a masterful storyteller. She also encouraged me to read a lot, which in turn made me want to write.

What would you like to accomplish as a writer?
My book Writing and the Spirit gives several answers to this. The most compelling and enduring must be that I feel it’s what I am called to do, so I do it.

Who has influenced your writing? How?
Hundreds of writers and probably thousands of other people have influenced my writing. I suppose my grandma, Feodor Dostoyevski, and Graham Greene in The Power and the Glory would top the list.

Do you write on a regular basis or sporadically and when and where is your favorite time and place to write?
I write as much as I can, usually five or six days a week. My favorite time and place is whenever I can get away from home, alone.

What book and/or short stories have you written, besides the short story in Birds of Passage?
I’ve written and published a dozen books, a couple dozen short stories and a hundred or so magazine features. Details at kenkuhlken.net

Do you read Christian and secular novels or just Christian works? Do you have a favorite author, can be Christian or non-Christian?
I’ll read any excellent Christian novel I can find, but I don’t find nearly enough. Some favorites are Graham Greene, Flannery O’Connor, and Feodor Dostoyevski. Some favorite poets are W.B. Yeats, William Blake, and Christina Rossetti.

Christian non-fiction, I’ll read everything by Philip Yancey, C.S. Lewis, and Dallas Willard.

As a Christian author, do you plan a faith message before you start writing or does your faith message grow out of writing a particular story? If no faith message in your writing, why not?
Every story is different. Sometimes I start with a theme idea, sometimes with a setting, sometimes with a character, or a conflict.

Each year Pastor Ed Noble of Journey Church gives a series called “God at the Movies.” While introducing the series, he commented that lots of believers limit their watching and reading of stories to the stuff “Christian” authors and producers offer, which is usually an attempt to adapt the kind of “secular” art they appreciate into stories the most delicate believers won’t find offensive.

So, these readers and viewers partake in largely derivative stories with all but the least dangerous truths bleached out of them. Better, he suggested, to realize that God appears in stories no matter the author’s beliefs or intentions. Better for us to read secular stories with an eye for spiritual truth than to waste our time on stories that will only reinforce our safe beliefs.

And I’ll add, better for artists of Christian beliefs to give up pandering and approach their work with an attitude like Flannery O’Connor’s when she advised that Christian fiction is simply honest fiction written by a Christian.

Note in particular the word honest.

Do you outline every chapter of your story, or do you simply let if flow without a preconceived idea as to where you might be headed?
I have done both and found that doing without an outline of any sort gets me into trouble, like a 1600 page novel I wrote years ago and have been cutting ever since.

I have a wild imagination, so usually outlines are best for me. Other writers, including many wonderful writers, are more logical, straight-line thinkers. They usually do best to just loosen up and generally stay away from outlines.

What is the biggest challenge facing you as an author in general? How about as a Christian author?
The biggest challenge is finding the readers who are going to respond best to my work, since it doesn’t quite fit in any defined genre. My stories have been called noir, hardboiled, mysteries, thrillers, Christian, literary. In this era when we’re advised to brand ourselves and present everything from an identifiable and stylized platform, I feel a bit lost.

Tell me about your current project. What you are trying to achieve, how far along are you, when it will be ready, any particular challenges with the work, target audience, etc.
Right now, this week anyway, I’m creating an audio of Writing and the Spirit, learning a bunch of tech stuff.

In a week or two, I hope to return to a final revision of a novel I call The Fat Lady: A Love Story, and find just the right voice for one of the narrators. She’s the narrator of my first novel, Midheaven. But she’s now about twenty years older.

Given the choice, would you rather be an independent author or be traditionally published? Why?
It depends upon the publisher. Ideal is a traditional publisher who has a whole staff dedicated to marketing your book. Not just to marketing, but to marketing your book.

But I have friends who are quite happy with self-publishing. I think they are mostly extroverts who enjoy hanging out on Facebook and such or who have found a niche they fit so well into, their marketing can be targeted precisely.

Is there anything else about you or your writing that you would like to share?
Just today, I looked at one of my books on Amazon (which I rarely do) and discovered a mighty fine review, which I will be happy to share. It’s about Writing and the Spirit.

It was signed Amazon Customer. On my honor, I don’t know who this reviewer is and I did not pay him or her a cent. If I knew how to I would send a note of thanks for the kind words.

“I have never in my entire life read a book that I related to so well. This book is fantastic and has inspired me to tackle my ventures regardless of the barriers. Ken Kuhlken is a genius writer who possesses the amazing ability to combine interest, realism, and humor so well. I STRONGLY suggest everyone to check this book out! No matter where you are in life, this book has something that will speak to you. I didn’t expect but from reading Ken’s story I was able to reflect on my life and it felt comforting to know that someone else is facing similar issues as me. Do yourself a favor and GET THIS BOOK!”

Reading that was surely gratifying.

If someone wants to reach out to you, how should they do that? What is your preference?

I’m at: ken@kenkuhlken.net