Ron Cooper Interview

Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born 46 years ago in swampy Berkeley County, South Carolina, where I spent most of my time setting traps to ambush the truant officer. Despite that sorry start, I managed to fake my way through college and graduate school (BA College of Charleston, MA Univ of So Carolina, PhD Rutgers) and now am a college professor in Ocala, Florida, where I am tolerated by my wonderfully sarcastic wife and three disrespectful children.

When did you decide to become a writer?
I started writing dreadful poems when I was twelve, yet I found that girls really liked to hear me read them, so I kept at it until I was distracted by the study of philosophy. I published a number of essays in scholarly journals and a philosophy book, but all the while I read stacks of fiction and toyed with some ideas for a novel.

What was your first published work?
Heidegger and Whitehead: A Phenomenological Examination into the Intelligibility of Experience (Ohio University Press, 1993). Sounds fun, huh? My first fiction, though, was a short story called "Refrigeration" that was published a few years ago in Yalobusha Review. That really gave me confidence to continue writing fiction.

What is your dream as a writer?
I suppose I am living it, especially since my first novel, Hume's Fork, was just published by Bancroft Press. I have no dreams of fame, but I would like to say one day, "I am a novelist" without feeling pretentious.

What writing avenues are you currently pursuing?
I am working on a new novel, Purple Jesus, that I think will be completed by the end of summer. Then I have sketches for another one.

Is there anything you wish you had been told earlier in your career?
If you want to publish a novel, you probably will get no attention from agents and publishers unless you have otherwise published fiction. Work up a few excerpts from your manuscript into self-contained short stories and submit them to literary journals. Also, submit your manuscript to contests. With a publication or two (especially excerpts) and even an honorable mention in a contest, others will take note. At least a few agents and publishers recognize quality writing, but they all get passels of submissions, far more than they could ever read. Some assurance that someone else in the literary world thinks well of your work will at least get them to consider it.

What advice can you offer writers just breaking into a serious writing career?
The wheels of publishing hardly turn at all--in fact the tires are flat, the rims worn, and the tow truck broke down. Nothing is as important as patience. Besides, what's your hurry? While you're making those endless trips to the mailbox for another rejection letter, spend that time revising and researching publishers with whom you can work well. Also, like it or not, readers want to be entertained, not learn about your inner complexities as a sensitive artist. Telling a good story does not mean that you have to compromise your talent. Finally, do not listen to anyone who says that writing is easy, that you should "open yourself to the Muse," or that you must "let the words flow from you." Here's the truth: writing is hard, the Muse died with Virgil, and if something is flowing from you, you probably need medical attention.

Anything else you want people to know?
You can find out more about me and my work at my website:
I would love to hear from you.


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