Meow, today I’m pleased to welcome Ron Fernandez, one of the authors in the KNTR anthology, Love and Other Distractions
R: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing.
Hi Rocco! So great to be here. I started writing a dark fantasy novel when I was around 12. I would pass around short chapters of my pages (notebook pages covered in carefully hand printed blue ballpoint ink) to my classmates, who would nod eagerly and unwittingly puff up my aspiring ego. To this day, I can’t piece together the story I was trying to tell, but it was something about the apocalypse, so even back then I was concerned about the end of the universe apparently, as my story for this compilation will attest.
Writing seemed like a way to get lost in ideas and words. You could start writing and just see what happened. The words were free, you would just needed to put them in some kind of order, and magic might unfold. Writing was also an escape from the horrors of growing up. Homework, tests, dating (or lack of), gangs, teenage moustache…so much drama.
My interest in writing was really nurtured when I got into science fiction and fantasy. I liked the imagination and the weird planes of being and bizarre characters, whose motivations were not that far from mine. I started reading when I was around 10, there was a short moment in time when the junior high cool kids (not me of course) were actually reading books for fun, and I jumped on the bandwagon. Those little bastards did me solid! I started with what was available in the public school, mostly novelizations of scifi movies (Tron and The Black Hole kicked it off as I recall). After this I discovered Madeline L’Engle and her wonderful universes. Then I found Steven King, who also really talked to me. His stories were so realistic at their core yet they involved otherworldly subjects, like vampires, killer cars, and (again) the end of the world. He also used great song quotes at the beginning of his movies, sort of a peek at other minds I would later shamble after, Dylan, Springsteen, et al. Into my teenage years I was into Piers Anthony, Douglas Adams, George Orwell, and poets like Yeats and TS Eliot. They still talk to me to this day.
R: How did you hear about Kids Need to Read?
I was introduced to the wonderful work done by Kids Need to Read through Christiana Miller, who edited and brainstormed the invention of our book. She really made it happen, and was so excited to bring all of our creativity together for a great cause. She is the mastermind, and should be her own publishing house! She can do it all.
R: Tell us about the story you wrote for the KNTR anthology. What was its inspiration?
My tale “Two Into One” is a story about Valentines Day at the End of the World. Our hero, Dusty, is called to play a crucial part in saving the galaxy, but finds it tough to explain the rules of the unseen cosmos, which is threatened with destruction, to his girlfriend Rachel.
The story is about the difficulty of falling in love with someone, of trying to explain and welcome them into the confusion and glory of your solitary existence. That is the inscrutable thing, how two people leave their parents and previous lives to come together and become one, and new lives are birthed. You know, when you fall in love, these various layers of your life get peeled away. Friends and situations either help or hinder your love story and you are left watching as the thin, onion-like skins of meaning and relationships are shed, while others are rediscovered after a few more layers. You wonder Who (and what) will still be with me when I go off with this person?
(In the story, Dusty has a best friend named Ace, who does actually go with him for the journey, supportive all the way, so maybe a sequel could be called “Three Ain’t Bad.”)
For Dusty, Rachel is a keeper. She is one for ages, she “gets” him, and helps him save the world. This has always been my experience. Women save the human race all the time. Men go around running into furniture and trying to give speeches, but it is women that makes the world go ‘round, who validate a quest worth undertaking.
The story is also set around the character of New York, a city I adore. I worship the godlike energy and surprises around each corner. The way you can get lost and always end up somewhere interesting. Every neighborhood has its secrets, every shop its mysteries. I think there are novels and stories waiting to be written about New York, and I hope to tell a longer yarn or two about it someday.
R: Out of all the television shows you’ve worked on, do you have a favorite?
I wrote a TV movie called Grendel, which was really fun to work on. It was directed by Nick Lyon for UFO Films and stars Chris Bruno, Ben Cross, and Marina Sirtis. They shot it in Bugaria where you can blow things up and drag people from galloping horses and you don’t need permits. The story was a version of the Beowulf saga, which allowed me to relearn that fabulous epic poem. It has dragons, giants, swords, sex, and blood, which I must have missed freshman year of high school. I know Alvy Singer admonishes Annie Hall to "Just don't take any course where you have to read Beowulf," but it really spoke to me this time around. It is a story about the lineages of kings and conquerors, and the power they pass on through their lives. To me, it was about what it means to have a story that is your own. The story that is you. The ancients passed information through oral storytelling, and at that time your name, your family name, your parents and ancestors, told people who you were. So when Beowulf comes to save this kingdom lead by Hrothgar, who is tormented by the monster Grendel, he is welcomed in the strength of his name, and his father’s name. It seems like a deep desire in us, to have a legacy that lives beyond our years, to have a story. And the movie gave me a chance to see that in a fresh way.
R: What’s a must have for you when you are writing? What aids the creative process?
There is a chimerical quality to writing, a lighting in a bottle effect we are constantly after. But the paradox is that inspiration best comes when you are consistent and do your work every day. Having a special place you write helps. Believe me, I enjoy coffeeshops and interesting locales for writing, but at home it is nice to have a spot where you can get your work done, to listen to the voices, to hear the story that is trying to tell itself.
I also like to draw and doodle as I go, so I allow myself to go make a painting or something out of clay to keep myself busy, in hopes of tapping into the subconscious and the Muse, which is skittish and moves away from direct questions.
As artists our work is a marathon, not a sprint. There are moments when you do sprint, for a deadline or a paycheck, but you want to generally take it steady and make it something you do often. You might compare writing to working out, or riding a bike, or dancing, activities which get easier the more you do it.
That said, actually working out is also very good for writers and artists. Having physical activities that get you out of your head and out of your interior spaces, both real and imagined.
Vacations and little day trips are vital for me as well. You need to recharge the batteries, to keep them flowing, or your inner child will hold you hostage and pout until you make the process fun again. Buy him a toy, take her to the zoo, and get me a Bloody Mary while you are up.
R: What is the craziest thing you've ever done?
A few years ago, my buddy Bob and I backpacked from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to Hanoi in Vietnam. It turned out to be an amazing trip, where we experienced this incredible country that we once were at war with, and discovered the people actually were a lot like us. Friendly, generous, pushy, enjoying life, eager to share what they have with you. One of the most breathtaking countries I’ve been to, the land in Vietnam varies from river delta, to jungle, to desert, to rain forest, to miles of soft sand beaches. Incredible food (especially in the south), where the French influence contributed to a fusion between the bread, sauces, and baking traditions and the soups, flavors, and spices of the region. Each morning we awoke to fresh baguettes, and enjoyed tangy pho dishes at dusk. I also remember a beautiful violin player at Maxim’s, playing to a full room, yet somehow alone.
R: What are you working on at the moment / next?
I am writing my first novel, called Pandora, a drama set in New Mexico. A little less apocalypse-y, but plenty of paranoia and government conspiracy to make up for that! Like Thomas’ Under Milkwood, it is a kind of play for voices, mostly the ones who live in my brain who refuse to go quietly.
I am also finishing a movie I directed, acted in, and co-wrote called Lady of the Lake. It’s a ghost noir set in LA, a revenge tale, with a love story warped around it, and (naturally) an apocalyptic narrative. The picture stars Sanny Van Heteren and Daniel DeWeldon, and features a cast of amazing actors including Matt Crowfoot, Klementina Mellin, Sasha Van Duyn, Holly Huebner, Andy Pacheco, Allen Nalasco (also co-writer), Kevin Kelly, Elizabeth Blanchard, Melissa Wintringham, Kelsey Wintringham, and Kat Lohr (my on-screen antics kind of slow things down).
R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m trying to take up golf, but I can’t find the right pants.
A bit of both. I like to scribble notes and scenes in notebooks and then lose them at the key moment – just when I need them.
Then when you find your notes again, you are hopefully deep into the writing and the notes will only remind you of where you are already going.
R: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? :)
My family likes to get lost in little towns, to see what we find. Playing music is always a good time, and I love going to movies and theatres. Starting dabbling in improv at Second City, hoping to be 3% more funny next year.
R: Where can we find out more about you and your work?
Please visit my site:
And you can join my mailing list here:
R: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
The best thing to do is write everyday. Writing is a muscle, we train ourselves and get better and stronger by being consistent and showing up for the page. Sometimes we get busy or life intrudes and we don’t write a day or two, but you have to get back to it. Don’t beat yourself up when you miss a day, but allow your creativity a chance to express itself through your words. Setting a page goal or scene goal can sometime be helpful. Making time for writing, a special time when you are not disturbed is critical. We need focus to be there for our art, to be able to listen to the work. This means taking it personally and carving out a time and space to feel safe and let yourself grow. And to wait.
I am a big fan of getting the first draft out. Outline and do a treatment for your work, do as much as you can to prep and research, but then push through and get a draft out. The cliché that “writing is rewriting” is usually true. You will fix it and make it shine when you get it out.
R: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
Surfing. Or fishing. The sea is like the bath we were born in, it speaks to that deep part of us, and is probably the most basic relationship we can have… joining the ocean in its undulations… drifting back into the brine…
Or flying airplanes. The sky is like the sea but in reverse. You can’t just float there unless you have some serious skills.
Just for Fun:
Night or Day? NIGHT. All night! With great radio.
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) Cat wearing dogsuit.
Beach or Pool? Beach. Maui. Dawn.
Steak or salad? Steak. Medium rare.
Favorite Drink? Gin and tonic. Also Guinness.
Favorite Book? On the Road
Favorite TV Series? Twilight Zone, Cheers!, MadMen
Favorite Movie? Black Orpheus (1959). Beautiful reimagining of the story of Orpheus in the underworld, set during Carnaval in Brazil. Gorgeous costumes, touching performances, unforgettable music, universal themes.
Favorite Actor: Jack Nicholson, Robert Mitchum, Donald Sutherland, Jacques Tati
Favorite Actress: Julie Christie, Ingrid Bergman, Marpessa Dawn
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada. Light rum.
Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii. Again, Maui would be great, but Kauai is not too shabby!
Finish this sentence: If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Orson Welles. I’d like to just listen to him talk about Rita Hayworth.
If I had just one wish, it would be to have one million Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche ice cream bars in a giant freezer.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be you Rocco! You have so many friends!
Meow, Ron! And thank you for a great interview!