Interview with Doug Kuony

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
The American mid-west. Omaha to be exact. It's big enough to be cosmopolitan, with an active art community and wonderful restaurants because of its ever growing ethnic communities. It has a wild and checkered history. At one time it was considered the gateway to the expanding American west. At that time, it was also looked upon by many as a moral cesspool to be avoided at all costs! By the time I was born, Omaha had lost its rowdy reputation. Even now it's still small enough to have communities that feel more like small towns. The Benson area, where I grew up, still has its 1900s buildings along the main street. A fifteen minute drive north will put you right in the middle of farms and ranch land! Even though I've lived in the city my entire life, I've spent a lot of time in small towns and on farms and ranches. In Omaha it's not usual to see men wearing, boots and cowboy hats. Unlike other places, it's more than just fashion. Chances are those men are farmers, ranchers or working cowboys. It's a rich culture!
When did you first start writing?
In the late seventies, I began writing songs. My first songs weren't very good. The only thing I knew how to do was copy the format of the songs I heard. But over time I improved and people began to comment on my lyrics. At some point I realized that writing a good song was more than getting it to rhyme and using phases like; "Oh, baby, baby..." I'd gone from mining the songwriter's motherlode of adolescent existential angst to telling stories. Because most songs are limited to three minutes, those stories are focused and condensed, they're stripped and pared down. I began to realize that perhaps it was more effective to tell my stories with a sense of reserve, an arc, and dare I say humor, rather than displaying my heart on my sleeve for all to see!

I've had enough tragedy in my life to sing the blues and sometimes that's a good thing, but not 24/7! I've got other things to say.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Poetry. See There, Where My Finger Points is the result of being exposed to the work of some extraordinary poets. Even though I've been working as a poet most of my adult life, I didn't really study poets. I studied songwriters. I didn't care for poetry. I especially didn't like the saccharine romanticism of the nineteenth century poets. I found them tedious and contrived. Then I started reading poetry by Charles Simic, Billy Collins, Ted Kooser and Phillip Levine and a new world was opened for me. Unlike the romantics, they're words were common and unpretentious, almost conversational and they peeled back the layers of the everyday in fascinating and insightful ways.

I've been working within the rhyming format of songwriting for so long that I found the idea of free verse liberating! I find it complimentary to lyric writing. I wouldn't say that poetry is easier or more difficult than lyrics, it's different. Lyrics need to be contained within preset meters. You are limited in what you can express in a song, so much can only be alluded to or not expressed at all. In free verse there are fewer restriction on form, more opportunity for expression. But that in itself can become a trap. What is it they say about giving a man enough rope?
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I've always enjoyed writing and done a lot of it in one form or another. I journal, write articles and write instructions manuals for projects. A few years back I wrote a book on the then relatively new field of High Dynamic Range photography. As a long time photographer, learning the photographic techniques were a snap compared to writing about them. I went through a period of total immersion as I wrote the text and produced the photos for the book. It wasn't easy, but I did it!

I learned several very valuable lessons. One was that I could, in fact, write a book. Another was that it required discipline and commitment. I also learned how valuable a proof reader is! Finally, I learned that I will never write another technical manual! At the rate technology changes, all your hard work will be outdated within a year of publication! Live and learn.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
It's given me a platform for distribution. Writing is rewarding, but all the effort can seem pointless if it's simply going to end up in a drawer or sitting on a drive somewhere. Most writers want people to read their work.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
For me, the joy of writing is the same as the joy that comes from any other creative process. Through focus, you take an etherial concept and sharpen it. You refine it and watch it transform, through your effort and attention, into something that did not exist before. I'm always amazed at the number of my projects that end up radically different than what I conceived of to begin with! It sometimes is so different that it gives you the feeling that the art is a process unto itself, with a life of it's own! I think that creativity is the purest expression of the human spirit.
What do your fans mean to you?
Any creative endeavor is, by nature, a conversation. You express and idea and your fans respond. I think that many people get into the arts because they think it will be an easy way to make money (After all, when art is done well, it looks easy). Anyone with experience in the arts knows just how misquided that belief is! If it's about the money and your first work isn't a monetary success, you'll quit.

I'd like to believe that I don't need validation from others and perhaps I don't, but being appreciated is a wonderful thing! You feel as if you've given someone something that has enriched their life. It a win/win situation. Without my fans, I'm simply talking to myself.
What are you working on next?
I have a Youtube channel called Kuony's Kitchen that began as a way for me to teach my friends to make naturally fermented bread. It just sort of expanded from there. I'm working on a book about the basics of fermenting old world style bread at home. I hope it will clarify some of the questions I'm asked in the comments.

I've worked with a group of songwriters on a regular basis for several years. So, I'm also working on a book about songwriting. A lot of the reasons people find songwriting, or any form of art, difficult is because they've had erroneous concepts foisted on them since they were children. From the time we first learn to talk we are taught that it is better to follow the beaten path than to go our own way. Going our own way is human nature. Is it any wonder so many of us are neurotic? Hopefully I can help break through some of the preconceptions that stop people cold in their creative tracks before they ever get started.
Who are your favorite authors?
In poetry, I've already mentioned Charles Simic, Billy Collins, Ted Kooser and Phillip Levine. Most of them also write prose and the insight that make them exceptional poets also informs their other writing.

I also enjoy Joseph Conrad, H.L. Mencken, Charles Bukowski, Vladimir Nabokov, E.E. Cummings, Daniel Defoe, Ambrose Bierce and because I'm a history buff and have a fascination with T.E. Lawrence, I put him on my list of favorites.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
At my age it is usually an inclination to use the bathroom.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
It's been my experience that the creative process is a lot like riding a bicycle, it's much easier to do once you get moving! Getting started is the difficult part. As a result, when I begin to feel as if I'm burning out on a project, I switch to another instead of quitting altogether.

I write poetry, prose, songs and perform, work as a photographer, illustrator, I cook, produce videos and silversmith. I had to give up watching TV years ago!
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Often I research authors or works mentioned by other authors. Other times the books are recommended to me.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I dictated a short story to my mother when I was in first grade. I thought I was a genius! It was only when the teacher read it to the class that I realized it sucked! I thank God it was only a couple of pages long!
What is your writing process?
I varies greatly depending on whether I'm writing poetry, prose or a song. I often try to mix the process up so that I don't find myself in a rut.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
There was a book in the library of my elementary school called Woody The Wood Duck. I must have checked it out a dozen times! I have to confess that I was more captivated by the pictures than the text. You have to admit that wood ducks are right up there with the mandarins when it comes to radical plumage!
How do you approach cover design?
I'm a photographer so if I keep it simple I can get over!
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Seven Pillars Of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence is a favorite because I've always been a Lawrence fan.

Crime And Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. When I first read it I was amazed that a book could pull you into the mind of someone building up to murder in a way that caused you to agree with the thought processes of a killer!

The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce. The first time I saw it, I thought it was a book on the occult. It might have been one of my earliest introductions to biting satire.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Even when it was at it peak of popularity, I wasn't really interested in reading it. A friend loaned it to me and I found myself captivated! There was none of the transparent plot so common in fiction that leads you to guess (correctly) that the butler did it. It sucked me in so that I spent every spare moment reading it and didn't truly know how it would end until the very last!

P.S. You're Cat Is Dead by Jame Kirkwood Jr. It's an demonstration of the foolishness of asking; "What else could go wrong?" It goes from bad to worse. From funny to hilarious! I found a paperback copy in the attic of a junk shop in a small town. I stayed up all night and read it in one go!

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. In an age when everything is "epic", it defines the word. It's epic in scope, in plot and character development. A must-read. Hey, it's Charles Dickens!
What do you read for pleasure?
Mostly history. I'm a freak.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I use a Kindle Paperwhite. I guess I'm still a paper kind of guy and I like its simplicity.
Describe your desk
My laptop sits on my lap. When my lap is full, my desk is full.

Except for a nearby coaster, where my coffee sits getting cold...
Published 2017-01-03.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

See There, Where My Finger Points
Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 10,380. Language: English. Published: January 7, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » American poetry
See There, Where My Finger Points is a collection of selected poems by writer, artist and musician Doug Kuony. Written mostly in free verse, See There, Where My Finger Points is a reflection on modern perceptions written in Kuony's unique, visual, humorous style.