Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Inkpot Interviews: Ron Koertge

The calendar may have turned a page, but the Inkpot is still catching up with the many 2013 publications from our MFAC community. While 2014 promises many more new books and articles from the people in our community, we still have a few to celebrate from this past year. Today: Coaltown Jesus (Candlewick Press), by Ron Koertge.

Please describe the book.
Walker, a fourteen year old boy living in the Midwest can’t deal with his older brother’s suicide and prays for help. To his surprise, Jesus appears and gives him exactly what he needs but not in the way he expected.

As the story progressed from inception to copy-edited version, what were the major changes? How did those changes come about? When did you first begin work on it? When did you finish?

I was experimenting with different kinds of formats. Once the ms was essentially a play. Another time more like a screenplay. Those ideas were met with scorn by my editor at Candlewick, so finally I wrote it as a novel-in-verse, something I know how to do. That sounds "easy," but when Liz finally saw "CJ" it was a punchy 40 pages for me.

What research was involved, and how did it affect the story’s development?
Research? I don’t need no stinkin’ research.  

Without naming names, tell us who your first readers are (e.g., live-action writing group; online writing group; editor; agent). When do you share a piece of writing?
I don’t mind naming names--Chris, Jan, Bianca. Chris is very good at everything, Jan at plot, Bianca at continuity. I tend not to show things until the 2nd or 3rd draft, since until then I don’t know what I’m writing about, anyway.
What books do you love to teach or recommend to students?

I’m not a big fan of other people’s  books.

During the January 2013 residency Emily Jenkins lectured on “How to Be Funny,” and one of her suggestions was to “use jolly words.” A good idea even if one isn’t trying to be funny. Do you have a favorite jolly word?
I’ve always been funny (in all the possible meanings of that word) and don’t like to play favorites. Words are prone to jealousy. They can be malicious.No way am I going to pick one word.
Learn more about Ron (including details on his latest book of poetry for adults, The Ogre's Wife) on his website.

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