A few weeks ago, the people at Spillwords shone their spotlight on me as a writer. Although not my first interview (I’d been profiled in my ‘real’ job), it was my first as a writer. Unfortunately, it also fell during the last week of the semester so I did not have much time to spend on my answers. So, here is my Spillwords interview if I had to do it over again.
Q: Where do you hail from?
A: My current home is just west of the foothills of the Rockies and just north of Boulder, Colorado. It is the last of the many places I have lived. I was born in New York City and spent my life in the New York metropolitan area until I graduated from college (US Military Academy). During my twenty year career I was stationed in Germany (before and after the Wall), Latin America, as well as Kentucky, Georgia, Kansas and Washington.
Q: What is the greatest thing about the place you call home?
This is the most beautiful place in which I have lived. Every place here includes a view of the Rocky Mountains. Our sunrises and sunsets inspire and even my commute is pleasant because I am able to view the Flatirons. In addition, this area is a destination for outdoor recreation. I live on a bike path that opens up into farm country, have a kayaking lake five minutes away and Rocky Mountain National Park is less than an hour away. There are also several local parks that make for great short hikes when you just want to get away.
Q: What turns you on creatively?
If you mean what inspires me, I don’t know if I can tell. Often I have a target market, such as an anthology, in mind. In other cases, a scene, character or line comes to mind and I go from there. My story “Home” was inspired by my own experience on my second tour in Germany where I visited Mannheim (the setting for the story) after listening to my mother’s description (she lived in Karlsruhe) On the other hand, my flash fiction story “Tale of Two Friends” spun off from a shelved work in progress. Once I have that seed, I let it go and see where it leads. I admit, I am the ultimate ‘pantser’ and am often surprised at how the story goes.
Q: What is your favorite word, and can you use it in a poetic sentence?
(This one I actually think I got right in the original interview)
My first thought was that many of my favorite words are best used poetically as limericks. But in the interest of keeping this spotlight for a general audience, I would have to say my favorite word is ‘whatever.’
They saw his answer as indifference,
He knew it was acceptance.
What was seen as apathy,
He knew was empathy.
While others looked and judged,
He simply said, “Whatever” and left them alone.
Q: What is your pet peeve?
Being raised by a German parent, my years in the Army, and my education in engineering and social scientist, have made me dislike sloppiness. This is especially true for sloppy thinking (although messy rooms and offices get on my nerves). Which is why I hate half baked ideas or where someone has not thought out in the impact of an idea. More than one student has found that their ‘simple solution’ has glaring errors. An expression I often use is ‘If you think the answer is simple, you don’t understand the issue.’ (This is actually the polite version of what I sometimes say).
That is why I dislike when an author uses a deus ex machina to get themselves out of a situation or create a world where the logic of their world building collapses. One of my favorite authors committed this sin by creating a world in which technology broke down, but electric cars still ran because they had solar cells in their roofs. This ignored the entire issue of maintaining the processors and software to control recharging and that batteries have a lifespan. At the same time, they could produce alcohol for drinking, but never considered using it as fuel. I still read her work, but I was seriously disappointed in the series.
Q: What defines Mike Kanner?
A student once described me as, “He’s like goat cheese, you love him or hate him.” I tend to go my own way, whether politically or in terms of my writing.
Many people mistake my formality for aloofness or elitism. In reality, I am an intense introvert (and possibly asocial) who does not do small talk well. I prefer my own company or the company of books. My family says, ‘Of course we interrupt him reading, otherwise we would never get to talk to him.’
Here are three questions I added for myself
Q: What do you do to pay the bills?
A: I’m a non tenured lecturer at the University of Colorado where I teach just about everything from American political institutions, to international relations, and numerous courses in security studies. One of my old department chairs used to joke that I was his utility fielder because I could (and I think have) teach any sub-field in political science.
Q: Who are your favorite authors?
A: You could just look through my Goodreads list, but let me see if I can break it down.
Current Writers. I have to admit I am a bit of a Carrie Vaughn (https://carriev.wordpress.com/) fanboy. I will read just about everything she has written. Others would have to include Neil Gaiman, Ha Jin, and Oliver PöTzsch (Hangman’s Daughter and Black Musketeers series). My guilty pleasures are Kristin Painter’s fantasy romances and any urban fantasy.
Classic Writers. The standard for sci-fi geeks of my age – Bradbury, Heinlein, and Asimov with Surgeon and Ellison (Harlan, not Meg) for horror.
Q: What do you do when you are not teaching and writing?
A: I have a well equipped woodworking shop where I spend time ‘creating sawdust’ having built a lot of my family’s furniture. I am also fortunate to live in the foothills of Colorado, so biking and hiking are part of the agenda as well.