I always enjoy hearing about the process that other writers take when penning their work. For Rita Kuehn, writing actually calms her. She’s jumpy and perhaps a bit nervous beforehand (trying to get comfortable, get her coffee, etc.) Then she settles in and lets the words fly. Can’t we all relate to that feeling? Ah….
Rita has a wonderful novel out and also offers some great advice for other writers. Don’t forget to check out Rita’s guest article about “Developing Your Lead Character.”
Enjoy this interview.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how long have you been writing?
My husband, daughter, and I live along the Mississippi River in Champlin, Minnesota. Champlin is just outside of Minneapolis. Although I’ve lived in Minnesota for many years, I’m originally from a small town in central Wisconsin. I graduated college in Eau Claire, WI where I took a very wrong turn into a business degree with a major in Accounting. The business degree has served me well over the years, but I am about the last person that should be in the field of accounting.
All the while I pursued a business career, I knew that I really wanted to be writing novels. Yet I kept putting it off, thinking that I had to make scads of money to be successful and happy. But, I wasn’t happy. I disliked business and it’s politics. I was always rubbing someone the wrong way, bucking the system as I went. But twelve years ago, I’d had enough. I had been traveling a lot, and I was running through an airport between consulting jobs with a laptop dragging behind me on one arm and my luggage on the other, when I decided that it was time to leave my ill-fated business career behind and begin a novel. So, much to the horror of my corporate-minded friends and family, I quit the corporate world. Since then I’ve written 3 novels, with Peripheral View being my first published work.
Your latest book, Peripheral View, sounds very interesting. What are some of the things that readers will enjoy about this book?
Peripheral View is inspired by a true story, and it is a novel of human triumph. My Aunt Lucille had a severe case of epilepsy; in the 1950’s drugs for the disease weren’t what they are today, and as an adult, she was placed in nursing homes and group homes.
As a child, I was afraid of her or tried to ignore her—looking at her with a peripheral view—, but as an adult, I volunteered at the place she lived and got to know her. While I was embarrassed by her, she grabbed onto my hand and announced to everyone she could that I was her niece. That alone deeply touched my heart. I learned that she had the same feelings as any of us, that she was embarrassed by the helmet she wore to keep from hurting herself during seizures, and most importantly, that she had found someone special. She wanted out of the institution, to marry him–to have love, family, and her own home. A caseworker, and my sister Roxann Dunst, helped her become independent and fulfill her dreams. Those peripheral views, and Aunt Lucille capturing my heart the way she did, was the inspiration for Peripheral View.”
In your opinion, what’s the best thing about writing?
Bringing words together, working them until you are conveying just the right image or thought is one of the best things about writing. I love working the individual words, creating something that is bigger than it’s parts, as they say.
Share some of your writing goals.
I want to keep writing novels and, hopefully, continue to publish. I’ve written two murder mysteries, both unpublished, but I seem to be more attracted to writing general fiction these days. I like to write stories that strike an emotional chord with me, as if I need to work to resolve the issue, or find a place for it through my writing. I’m currently researching the orphan trains, a little-known piece of American history, and some of the things I’ve read break my heart. I may have to write about it.
Is there a specific time of day you like to write?
Yes! I believe my peak time for writing is between 3:00 and 7:00 p.m. every day. That’s when I’d like to write, but I can’t do it then! My daughter comes home from school, the family wants dinner, the new puppy needs attention, yadda, yadda, yadda. So I usually take myself off to a coffee house and write during the middle of the day. Still, if I’ve got a great run going in a paragraph or chapter I find it hard to put the work aside. That’s when I edge into the 3:00-7:00 or later time frame, and everyone has to put up with me ignoring him or her.
What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?
Gosh, that’s a tough question. For nonfiction, it would probably be The Hiding Place (Hendrickson Classic Biographies) by Carrie Ten Boom. Carrie Ten Boom’s family, especially her father, were amazing Christians and had bravery beyond anything I can imagine during the time of the holocaust. For fiction, the The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver comes to mind. But so do the The Shell Seekers and September by Rosamunde Pilcher, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, and A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
As a child, I knew I wanted to write. I would write poetry or song lyrics all the time. My second grade teacher told my mother that I was going to be a writer some day—my mother also likes to tell that bit of info.
Rosamunde Pilcher, Martha Grimes, Sandra Brown, Pam Jenoff.
Book you’re currently reading?
Any type of writing ritual you have?
If I could just get myself seated! I get myself tea, or coffee. I arrange my papers several times. I check my email. Gosh, it’s like I’m nervous. Writing calms me, but before hand, I’m all keyed up. I wonder if any other writer’s are like this.
Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how did you get past it? If not, why not?
I do believe in writer’s block. I have a couple of things that I do to try and get around it. Using the “morning pages” technique (as described by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way), I write any single thing that comes to mind, even if it’s only, “I can’t think of anything to write, I can’t think of anything to write, I can’t . . .”. Eventually something will come. Or I do a bit of brainstorming on a sheet of paper, perhaps writing three big ideas (using one or two words for each idea) that I want to be working on for a novel. Then I branch out and write down what comes to mind for each one of those, then for each one of them, and again . . . A great quote from Brian Tracy says it well: “You will find it easier to do a single, small piece of a large project than to start on the whole job.”
What’s the measure of a successful writer?
For me, it’s writing what I think is the perfect description of a feeling or vision and then having a reader or editor enthusiastically confirm it.
Advice for other writers?
Write using nouns and verbs. Limit the adjectives. Use dashes, semicolons, and other punctuation to enhance your writing (A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation by literary agent Noah Lukeman is a helpful resource).
Where can we learn more about you?
To learn more about me check out my blog at ritakuehnsblog.com where I write on a variety of topics and keep reader’s informed about author events. For more information about Peripheral View, a novel of love, courage and the triumph of the human spirit, please visit my website at Peripheralviewnovel.com. Book groups reading Peripheral View may contact me from my website or my blog; I may be able to do a “call in” on the day of their group discussion. I’d love it, in fact. Also, I invite you to follow me on twitter at twitter.com/ritakuehn.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I want to encourage writers to write for the pleasure of turning words into art, to have fun developing characters and the story. It’s hard work, but it is a joy. Also, it is essential to have others read and comment on your writing—but be careful with this—ask people who will give you an honest answer and who are avid readers. A lot of people might ask to read your work, but only a few will give you the kind of feedback that allows you to enhance your story.