Interview – Kevin Richard White, author of Steep Drop
Self-Publisher’s Showcase: Today we are joined by Kevin Richard White, author of Steep Drop. Welcome to the Showcase Lounge, Kevin.
Kevin Richard White: Thank you for having me. It’s a real pleasure.
SPS: For any of our readers that haven’t come across your work previously, can you take a moment to tell us all a little about yourself?
KRW: Sure. Steep Drop is my first novel, available through No Frills Buffalo Publishing. Previously I had published a poetry collection entitled Handprint on the Windshield through Black Coffee Press (they are now defunct) when I was 22. I’ve been writing fiction since I was about 14. Right now I have another novel finished, and I’m also close to finishing a short story collection. I’m also a big book and movie buff as well, and have an undying love for baseball.
SPS: What are your perfect writing conditions, and how often do you write?
KRW: I like to go old fashioned. Pen and composition book, one of those black and white covered ones. I like to do 90% of my writing in that way first. I usually try to write maybe four or five days out of the week. Some people say that they don’t have time to write – I think that’s just an excuse. I make time, regardless of whether I’m feeling motivated or not. Even if I force myself to come up with something, even if I know it’s crap – it still gets me writing, it still makes ideas push their way up front. And I write it down anyway. Later on, I type it up, and if it’s any good, I keep it, if there’s bad parts, then I get rid of them. I like to keep it simple. It’s also hard for me to write at home. I try to go to other places where a different atmosphere forces me to use my imagination. Sitting at home with my favorite music on – that doesn’t help. Being somewhere that you’re not used to, I feel that’s the best area to get work done. Because it gets the gears turning.
SPS: Can you put your finger on the moment where you decided that you wanted to publish your work?
KRW: Probably when Handprint was published. I decided that I was going to keep anything that I finished and present it as a serious work. When Steep Drop was finished, I wasn’t sure I was going to find a home for it since it was such a dark and disturbing piece. But when it did, it gave me a level of confidence I never had before. Even though I thought it had no future, someone apparently did, and there’s readers for every type of book. So seeing that in print – yeah, it made me glad I took the risk and faced rejection and took the steps required to make sure it saw the light of day.
SPS: Why do you think it is that you have decided to write the first novel that you did, and do you see yourself ever writing in other genres?
KRW: When I was coming up with the initial premise for Steep Drop, I couldn’t see it as anything else but a novel. And I always had that dream that every writer has had – to write the Great American Novel. Obviously this isn’t it but it was something that I wanted to accomplish, a goal that I had set for myself. And I went through with it and it was a rich, rewarding process. I had tried my hand in other forms and genres – short stories, poems, horror, science fiction, fantasy – everything I tried. But it just clicked with this certain storyline. It had to be a novel. I couldn’t see it as any other form.
SPS: So, tell us about Steep Drop?
KRW: Sure. Steep Drop is a novel about a dysfunctional relationship. It’s told from the point of view of the man, who remains nameless. In his brutally honest dialogue – flashbacks, monologues – we learn of his story. He was married to this woman he finds strikingly beautiful. But he just cannot justify loving her fully because he cannot accept her flaws, her internal composition. He is only interested in the big picture, but cares nothing for the small things that make it up. And we find out in the beginning of the novel that he had left her for some time and is only meeting up with her for the first time in a long time in an attempt to get back together with her. And that’s where the novel’s conflict is born – he loves her, he didn’t want her, now he does, and when he does, she wants nothing to do with him. But she cannot help but talk to him, to see him – because it is the only idea of love she has ever known. The novel has a lot to do with those tough questions about relationships that we all think about – the dark questions, the fears, the what ifs, the horrible realization that even though you think everything is going right, there’s always something in the shadows, waiting. I’m not trying to say that love is a bad thing. It isn’t at all. In this story, though, to these people, it is.
SPS: Where did you find the inspiration for your protagonist?
KRW: I think that all writing is a little autobiographical, no matter how many writers you hear stress that it isn’t. I would say he’s about half fiction, a quarter of other people I’ve known, and the other quarter parts of me. I really wanted to create a character that would be memorable based on just his thoughts. His actions are large and certainly worthy of moral questioning, but in his brooding thoughts, his frantic attempts to try to understand what is going on – I wanted his words to drive the plot alone. And I think I did well in creating someone who means well, but cannot do well at all.
SPS: You send him on quite a journey, how easy did you find it to cover so many emotions?
KRW: The story itself is a little autobiographical as well. It’s the combination of several relationships I’ve had over the years, so in trying to cover the feeling of dread, that sick feeling you get in your stomach when someone you love hurts you – it was easy to convey. Once I had the basic idea of what was going to happen, it just flowed quite easily. I wanted him to rant and ramble on. I wanted to give the impression that he was digging his own grave with how often he spoke, what he spoke of, and how he was attempting to take the high ground every time. I feel that he’s not only just a character, but the whole book. Without him, there is no story.
SPS: How does he react in particular when his attempts at reconciliation are rebuffed?
KRW: The thing that I wanted to stress with this character is that he does not get violent in any way. I didn’t want to make this a book about abuse or violence or any sort of thing. I wanted it to be all mental struggle. It forces him to go into his head to try to come up with solutions. That’s how I feel that all problems should be solved – through talking, through logic, through heartfelt confessions and by telling the truth, even though it may hurt. Honesty, even though brutal, is the key. And this main character sees that. So with every attempt, it only forces him to go back into himself deeper, to go to a different flashback, to go to a different part of her, to find out more about himself and what he can do to make it work again. That’s what pushes the novel along.
SPS: Other than your leading man, are there any other characters that we should be on the lookout for?
KRW: The only other character in the story is the woman, along with a few minor ones mentioned or shown only in flashbacks, so there really isn’t anyone else to worry about. She has her chance to say what she needs to say. She proves herself to be a strong character, which is essential because she needed to counteract everything that he does with something stronger. It’s a good battle between the two throughout.
SPS: Have you written Steep Drop as a standalone first novel or are there plans to revisit any of the characters again?
KRW: Definitely standalone. The grief and the stress that come from this story’s conversations are ones that shouldn’t be revisited ever again. Their story is written with a definite ending. I don’t like to think about what could happen later with them, or any story of mine for that matter. I like definite endings. I hated it when things go on.
SPS: Can you take a moment to tell us how you came up with the cover for Steep Drop?
KRW: When the novel was accepted for publication, my first thought wasn’t editing, it was the cover. The cover is more than just the cover. It’s the face, it’s the body, it’s what speaks for the novel before the words themselves do. When you pick it up and you see it, it has to be strong enough for someone to be taken aback by it. And I was discussing this with my friend Frank Marsters, who designed the cover, and told him that I needed something that was going to really standout. He read the novel and he wanted to create something with dark colors, with solid imagery that said EVERYTHING about the plot and nothing at the same time. He only did one mock-up, which is the cover I chose. I didn’t need to see anything else. I was sold. It’s turning out to be one of the best parts of Steep Drop – an iconic image, I feel, represents the whole inner and outer turmoil of two people’s lives.
SPS: It’s probably a good time to ask; what can we expect next from the pen or keyboard of Kevin Richard White?
KRW: I mentioned earlier in the other question, I finished another novel which actually started as a NaNoWriMo project but I liked it so much that it became a serious work. I’m in the process of editing that and finding a home for it, as well as finishing up some short stories that have been sitting around. I still write poetry, but there isn’t a big audience for it anymore, so all of that is resting comfortably in notebooks that probably won’t be open for some time. So there’s some projects in the wings, waiting to be noticed, and hopefully, that’ll happen soon.
SPS: Was the Self-Published/Indie-Published route always your preferred route for your work?
KRW: I prefer the indie movement, solely because I feel you get more freedom out of it. It’s very tough to get in with the big publishers. A lot of publishers won’t accept manuscripts unless they come from an agent, which a lot of writers, and I speak for myself here as well, simply can’t afford. So the other way is to research and find the right indie company that will accept your manuscript from you alone. And I’m glad I did, because there’s a great satisfaction in knowing that you’re supporting the indie movement. There’s a lot of great writers out there, who unfortunately aren’t being noticed as they should, since big name publishers won’t accept their stuff. It’s about building up, little by little. Eventually the right person will come along and see your work and then, who knows what will happen?
SPS: Has the experience so far been all that you thought it would be?
KRW: Absolutely. The wheels of writing and publishing turn extremely slowly, so you have to have patience, and you have to be dedicated to your story. I had my doubts, but I stuck through it. It turned out to be one of the greatest experiences of my life. To see your work, published in paperback form, to see it in a store or to see a copy in person or to read from it in front of other people – there’s not a lot that can beat that. Seeing your own novel, having it in your hand – I would love to do it for the rest of my life.
SPS: If you could give one piece of advice for someone looking to get into writing, what would it be?
KRW: Do not be afraid to take risks, ever. When I submitted Handprint to Black Coffee Press, it took me two hours and several drinks to muster up the courage. And they accepted it. When I submitted Steep Drop, it took me three days and many drinks to calm my nerves and do it. And they accepted it. My point is that if you feel you have something written that the world must see, don’t hide it. Rejection sucks, yes, but it makes you stronger. Take risks. You will never know what will happen.
SPS: Before we bring this interview to a close, it’s your chance to name-drop. Anyone who you feel is deserving of more recognition at present or someone whose writing you have recently enjoyed? Now is your chance to spread the word…
KRW: On a well-known level, Raymond Carver, Miranda July, Zane Lovitt, Alexander Maksik – all brilliant writers. I enjoy their work immensely. On a personal level, a few writers I know – Justin Grimbol, Jessica M. Shimer, Dawn-Santos Martinez – deserve all the praise in the world for their fearlessness and their dedication to the craft. My many hats off to you.
SPS: Thank you for joining us today Kevin, and all the best for the future.
KRW: Thank you for having me, I am truly grateful for the chance to talk.
SPS: For more information on Kevin and Steep Drop, please do visit his Author page here.