Saturday, January 30, 2010

4RV gets Best Mainstream Novel, Kirk Bjornsgaard's

Preditors & Editors Best Mainstream Novel award goes to Kirk Bjornsgaard's Confessions of a Former Rock Queen, published by 4RV Publishing in 2009.

This honor is well deserved. I just wish Kirk were here to enjoy it. However, we lost Kirk in May of 2009, about a month after his book was released. I'd like to share the interview I had with him just shortly before his death:

Vivian: How did/does your history and home background affect your writing? How did your vocational life as an acquisitions editor affect your writing?

Kirk: In terms of my “history,” I’d long wanted to write a novel that had rock’n’roll as its back story, its narrative vehicle. Too often, rock music has been utilized in novels and in most every case the author knows too little about the mechanics of the music, the instruments, and the performers. As a drummer in innumerable bands over the years I wanted to get the details “right.”

In terms of home background, I’d have to go back to my parents, both of whom were well-educated “book people.” When I excelled at essay contests and spent my free time reading and writing instead of pursuing sports, there was never any quarrel from them! I always had their support in terms of pursuing writing and editing and journalism as my careers. I receive the same love and support from my wife and kids––my number one fans!

Working as an acquisitions editor keeps me abreast with what’s new “out there” in both fiction and non-fiction, as well as publishing trends.

Vivian: Tell us something about your educational background that has made you a better, or more caring, writer.

Kirk: After being graduated from an over-crowded suburban high school, I sought out a small, private college with low teacher-to-student ratios and a disciplined writing program. I found it in Bard College in upstate New York, where at the junior level there were several tutorials in which the professor and I discussed my work. This sharpened by abilities and certainly made me a better writer! Seek out mentors. Seek out writers’ workshops and neighborhood writers groups. Seek those situations in which you can both learn and contribute.

Vivian: Many of us know about your cancer and that it has returned, and we are encouraged by your courage. Will you give us a bit of an idea what that has done to your writing? To your life?

Kirk: Frankly, the cancer and its treatments and side effects have brought writing to a screeching halt. The extreme fatigue brought on by the disease and the side effects of chemo have made further work impossible. It’s even tough to promote the publication of Confessions as I only leave the house for doctor visits. To call this a major setback in my life––after 57 years of near-perfect health––is an understatement; but my family and I are dealing with it to the best of our abilities, thanks to many good friends and colleagues.

Vivian: Confessions of a Former Rock Queen is your recent book. What inspired you to write it? What led you to 4RV Publishing to produce it?

Kirk: The inspiration came in a fully-formed story. This wasn’t one of those “start writing and see where it goes” books. It’s never happened before or since but the narrative arc and the characters came to me, fully-formed, and I just set out to write it as I envisioned it. The first draft from a decade ago looks a lot like the final, published version in its basic form and characters. What led me to 4RV was simply the chance to work with a local, reputable publisher what was starting out. I love small businesses>

Vivian: We at 4RV appreciate your trust in us.

I know you influenced writers in your capacity with University of Oklahoma Press, and that your attendance at the OWFI (Oklahoma Writers Federation) as a representative of OU Press encouraged people to write more nonfiction and historical novels. Did any writing groups benefit you and your writing?

I was a member of the Tulsa Nightwriters fiction group for more than a decade, and it benefited me in many ways. The camaraderie, the advice and critique, the chance to critique and help other writers were both invaluable and personally rewarding. Since moving to Norman I have not been able to attend those regular Monday night sessions, and I miss ‘em still.

Vivian: Does writing help better you as a person? How?

Kirk: It provides an outlet for my emotions and creativity––performing music does much the same thing––that is made sweeter because I can share it with people.

Vivian: What advice would you have for a new author?

Kirk: 1. Read widely and constantly. Writers have to be readers as well.
2. Write every day, if possible; establishing the same time of day to do so can help to make the practice feel natural.
3. Observe people––all sorts of people––because from that comes the characters you need.
4. Be fearless. If you think it, write it.

Vivian: Any other comments or thoughts you’d like to share?

Kirk: Writers are the world’s best people.

Vivian: Thank you, Kirk, for taking time and some of your energy to share with us. I’m sure readers of Confessions will enjoy the novel as much as I did and do. Readers will be encouraged by your interview, too.

Confessions of a Former Rock Queen, Kirk's novel, can be found through any bookstore,, or the 4RV Bookstore.

Congratulations, Kirk. May your family and friends bask in this honor for you.



Beth Bence Reinke said...

Vivian, thanks for sharing this interview so those of us who never met Kirk could get to know him a little bit. It hurts my heart that he isn't here to see his book being honored in this way, but hopefully his legacy and this award are of comfort to his family. They must be very proud.

Vivian Zabel said...

Kirk was a great man and person. Confessions was supposed to be the first of a trilogy.

Penny Ehrenkranz said...

How wonderful you were able to speak with Kirk before his death and to share his thoughts with all of us.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Such a wonderful and sad story Kirk had to tell. At least his family can see the results of his hard work.

Sun Singer said...