I was born and raised in Chicago and currently live in the Western Suburbs of Chicago. I’ve been publishing fiction for about seven years now, and loving it! However, my day job is working for the University of Maryland University College’s online Effective Writing Center (EWC). I’m also a member of two local writers groups, and I find that I gain so much value and insight from helping others with the craft of writing, in all its forms be it academic, business, or creative writing. A typical day for me is waking up, helping students with their needs through our writing center’s various online resources until I’m all caught up. Then I usually take a long walk, come up with some idea, and do some fiction writing in the afternoon or early evening. I tend to come up with ideas (or break writers block) while walking around, thinking to myself, or wandering the aisles of the grocery store.
I think I would consider myself a spiritual person with a religious background that I’m very appreciative of. I think like any social construct, religion can be manipulated or abused, but at the heart of most major religions and beliefs systems are wonderful truths that do real good in people’s lives. I was born and raised Catholic and overall had a very good experience with my Catholic upbringing. I think it gave me a good foundation of morality, and I had good teachers, role models, leaders, and godparents in my faith. As an adult, I’ve become more interested in theology and philosophy beyond Christianity, and I find it very fascinating. I am very much in awe of how much there is to ponder in the short time we are alive.
I must confess—pun intended—that Father Blake is actually a minor supporting character from a novel I published some time ago titled Jake Carter & the Nightmare Gallery. Father Blake was very loosely based on some of the priests who I had known as a kid in a Catholic school—and I mean that in a very positive way. I remember as a kid being nervous of the strictness of the “old school” priests who may have seemed rough around the edges when they spoke in class, and knowing you would have to see them one-on-one for reconciliation. You wait for your turn, trembling in the pew, fearful of the “sins” you had committed as a child: teasing younger siblings, white lies, mild cheating—thinking these acts would somehow spill out of you and you would be condemned.
But then during confession, I distinctly remember realizing, to my relief, that the priest was actually a very compassionate, wise, reasonable—normal—human being. That’s how Father Blake came into my novel, particularly in a scene where the protagonist Jake goes to confession and gains some valuable insights.
This flash fiction piece shows a deeper side to Father Blake’s character which is more a supposition of my imagination, rather than based on any real person. I simply occurred to me that that a priest—being a normal human being with desires and regrets—may have things about his past, missed opportunities, or other perceived injustices that haunt him which are regrettably entangled with his faith.
In a short scary piece, often once the scariest thing happens, the piece naturally wraps up, so the reader ruminates over the dark possibilities. And in a social critique, you’re often left with an important, lingering question. This story is probably something in between. Father Blake’s regrets would be impossible to resolve in fewer than 700 words, but the fact that he is facing them is a complete arc for me.
What I hope is memorable to readers is that here was a man who devoted himself to being a spiritual leader, but in order to be that leader he was asked to deprive himself of companionship that in a perfect world he would have had every right to pursue. Beyond that, I think what matters is that regret can be a bitter burden which has the power to poison one’s life in unexpected and tragic ways. And if there is a Devil—real or metaphorical—wouldn’t he use that against us?
I think it’s hard to argue with that notion! The book I most recently finished was Stephen King’s It—a fantastic, simultaneously horrifying and beautiful, story about childhood, friendship and good vs. evil. I admit that it can be tempting to let reading slip by with so many modern distractions, but I do think it’s critical to carve out at least a little time every day, just to sit down and read for pleasure, as well as to learn.
I tend to jump around, not truly having a lot of “favorite” authors, or striving to read the current best sellers. I just go to the library and look for something interesting, or think about a well-known book like It with a good reputation and realize “Gosh, I know It came out _____ years ago, but I really should read It!” There are more books than anyone will ever have time to read in his or her lifetime, so by all means, we should read what interests us! My personal favorite book is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, which I have read many times, and hope to read many more!
Ideally, I’m writing a little every day or roughly 5 days a week, somewhere between 700 and 1600 words a day, sometimes more if I’m really inspired or on a hot streak with a longer piece. It’s rare that I’m at a loss for a story to write about because usually I’m juggling several projects at once, so the inspiration seems to strike whether I’m ready to start a new story or not! (I guess that’s a good problem to have!) I feel like I always have three “levels” of fiction in process: the finished stories that need revising, the half-finished stories that need endings, and the ideas that I jot down which require that first sentence.
I do think fear holds back a lot of people who want to write, but don’t want to face anyone’s criticism (constructive or otherwise). It’s something that you have to conquer, but the more you write, the more you develop thick skin and realize that there is a lot of subjectivity in how people respond to your writing, as well as a lot to learn from readers’ reactions.
I have a batch of stories that I’m currently seeking homes for, as well as two middle grade adventure novels that I’m working on. One of those books I’m aiming to put out this fall is titled Matt Palmer & the Komodo Uprising. It’s a light-hearted sci-fi adventure about a kid teaming up with an alien prince to rescue his sister from the clutches of other-dimensional reptile warriors. I also have several stories and a couple of novellas that I’m in the middle of drafting and revising. In a few years, I hope I’m still doing this and finding new ways to get my writing into the hands of more readers.
People and nature at large inspire me. You never know what about life is going to strike you in an interesting way and compel you to write a story. And to me, what’s cool is that you often don’t even really understand the meaning behind that inspiration until you’re elbows deep into that story. I think writing stories is like unraveling mysteries. It’s best when you’re just as surprised by what happens as your characters.
Find Kevin at his website www.KevinFolliard.com. You can also check out some of his books below.