Ryan Bradley is touring blogs for his new book The Waiting Tide. For Murder Your Darlings, he interviewed himself...
RWB: We talk a lot, but it's nice to have you here in this formal setting.
RWB: Thanks, it's a pleasure.
RWB: I'll dive right in. You write a lot about sex, both in your fiction and nonfiction, but you insist that there's a difference between writing erotica and writing that includes sex. Is there really a difference?
RWB: There's a difference to me. I write about sex because sex is a basic part of being human. We all have bodies and the vast majority of us (above a certain age) have sex actively or have had sex. It's probably the most universal human experience beyond something like breathing. We all think about it in one way or another. Even people who have chosen abstinence are thinking about sex, maybe not the same way, but the choice not to have sex is still an issue around sex. I don't think it's something we should be shy or ashamed about. But I think the biggest difference between writing about sex and writing erotica is that erotica approaches sex as fantasy, whereas I try to write about sex as a reality.
RWB: The Waiting Tide, which is an homage to Pablo Neruda, is very sensual and passionate. Your fiction is quite different. Even the book's publisher was surprised when he first read the collection. How do you reconcile the two?
RWB: Do they have to be reconciled? Aren't we all multi-facted people? My fiction tends to be more aggressive and volatile because of the stories I'm telling. It's hard to write a story about tragic life circumstances, violence, human frailty, whatever, without being more raw. When I write poetry I'm trying to explore something else, it's less about telling a specific story than dealing with a particular moment, thought, or feeling.
RWB: As someone who writes poetry (I'm sure we feel similarly about the label of "poet") you're faced constantly with the decline of interest in the form. Why do you think poetry is ignored and/or disliked, and why do you think it's important that people continue writing and publishing poetry?
RWB: Poetry is a hard sell. It hasn't always been that way, but it's hard to imagine it ever becoming a mainstream thing again. Which means that we have to embrace the niche nature it has developed. But I think poetry is misunderstood on a fundamental level. People have preconceived notions of what poetry is and they dismiss it without really exploring it. There's poetry out there for everyone, just a lot of people don't seek it out. But it is integral, I think, that poetry be fostered as much as possible. It's tough when you see the sales side of poetry, which I've seen as a writer and as a publisher, but that can't be a deterrent. In fact, as a publisher it makes me want to publish more poetry. Because damned if I'll let sales sway what I think is important. Poetry is important for so many reasons, one of which being that it teaches us a lot, not just about the content of individual poems, but about writing. You want to learn economy of language? Poetry is a good place. Jonathan Franzen could learn a lot about editing by studying some poetry.
RWB: Now Franzen’s going to have you killed.
RWB: He’ll never see this, he’s afraid of the internet.
RWB: Good point.
RWB: It’s been a while since you wrote a poem. What’s up with that?
RWB: My writing comes in segments. When I’m writing fiction I have a hard time switching gears to poetry and vice versa. But I also took a number of months off from writing most anything except for occasional essays.
RWB: So, you’ve been writing some fiction again? Any details you can share?
RWB: Thanks for that shameless setup to let me discuss something new. I just finished a novella called Winterswim. It’s set in my hometown of Wasilla, Alaska. I turned it into the publisher it was written for, so now I’m just hanging tough waiting for word on whether or not they like it enough to publish it.
RWB: Sweet. Before we end this I asked some friends to come up with questions they might ask you to ask yourself. So let’s do a little lightning round. First up, one of your coworkers wants to know why you eat a bagel with peanut butter for lunch every day?
RWB: It’s an obsessive compulsive thing. I have a lot of food related compulsions and I go in cycles with lunches. Sometimes I eat the same lunch for years.
RWB: Weirdo. A friend on Facebook asks: In every writers life there is a turning point. A moment when cumulative events push a work from obscurity to greatness. When do you think that point will be for you? Is that a hard date or are you willing to fudge it a week or two?
RWB: I thought it was going to be like five years ago. At least. The world is having a hard time catching up to how famous I am in my head.
RWB: What’s up with that? Seriously! Anyhow, your publisher’s publicity intern would like to know why your poems are so saucy.
RWB: The saucy stuff is what makes life worth living.
RWB: Couldn’t agree more. Thanks for doing this, man.
RWB: No problem, it was a blast. See you later.
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Ryan W. Bradley has fronted a punk band, done construction in the Arctic Circle, managed an independent children's bookstore, and now designs book covers. He is the author of a story collection, PRIZE WINNERS (Artistically Declined Press, 2011) and a poetry collection, MILE ZERO (ADP, 2013). He also co-authored the collaborative poetry collection, YOU ARE JAGUAR (ADP, 2012) with David Tomaloff. His novel, CODE FOR FAILURE was recently re-released by Civil Coping Mechanisms. He received his MFA from Pacific University and lives in Oregon with his wife and two sons.