Interview: Three Questions with Brandon Rucker

Editing, Interview, Q&A, Question Me

This little Q and A interview is taken from the lastest edition of the Liquid Currents Newsletter we have for Liquid Imagination Online. You can read a transcript of the interview below or click this link for the entire newsletter, which also features an interview with poet Felino A. Soriano, another Daily Kick in the Pants from David Farland, and other news (plus the last edition is just below it).

Without further ado . . . the interview:

Three Questions with Brandon Rucker

1) You landed an editing job with a publication that was once associated with Zoetrope Virtual Studios and Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope: All-Story, and you did this while still new to the game. What qualities did you have to make them take notice?

Wow. You’re taking me way back so I will have to grab a dust mop to clear away the dense cobwebs in this cluttered mind of mine. If you will, allow me a moment to recall the history and some details about Zoetrope: All-Story Extra. Better yet, I can just provide the official description (edited in past-tense):

  • All-Story Extra was an on-line supplement to Francis Coppola’s fiction magazine, Zoetrope: All-Story. Each month, All-Story Extra featured two new stories submitted by writers via Zoetrope’s on-line submissions site. The stories were chosen and edited by guest editors—also members of Zoetrope’s on-line submissions site—with assistance from the New York editorial staff of Zoetrope: All-Story. All-Story Extra was created by Francis Coppola and five members of Zoetrope’s on-line submissions site, who comprised the Peer Advisory Board (PAB). The PAB selected the guest editors and nominated the stories that the guest editors considered for All-Story Extra. Guest editors could also consider stories featured in “The Top Three” stories and/or any others that they think worthy of publication.

Aside from that, I don’t know any finer details in regards to ASE’s founding or its inner workings. I do know that old school workshop members Mare Freed and Jim Nichols were part of that Peer Advisory Board, and were also the original Editorial Coordinators (i.e. liaisons). The Editorial Coordinator during my time, Barbara Garrett, was a good friend and a joy to work with during my stint.

Here’s a fun fact: the founding editors had also had work published in ASE as well. The reason their stories were eligible to be published through ASE is because the identity of the authors were anonymous so that the Guest Editor could have a more unbiased selection process, if I remember correctly. Finicky reader and maverick that I am, I went outside of the Top 3 as well as the other nominated stories suggested by the PAB because I was not overly impressed with what had been considered the ‘best stories’ by the voting membership. I cared even less for popularity contests or politics.

Now, to get back to your question more directly, in my opinion, the condition for Guest Editor, like any voluntary activity, requires that you have drive and passion, along with a selfless desire to help your peers achieve the goal of publishing. Naturally it helps to have some kind of editorial mindset, too. That might be an understatement.

Months earlier I was one of the founding editors of the fledgling (and now long defunct) webzine called Z End Zine which was founded and published by Kieran Galvin, who had corralled a handful of us upstart Zoetrope members to branch out into online publishing using his server. This was also a volunteering position, so the above ‘qualities’ applied. Naturally some of the workshop luminaries landed bylines in our small handful of issues. A few months later, I suppose I still had the editor’s itch because I found myself doing a two-month stint as Guest Editor for Zoetrope: All-Story Extra.

Another fun fact: I was the only guest editor to A.) Work without another guest editor, B.) Serve on two consecutive issues of Zoetrope: All-Story Extra [issues 22 (May 2000) and 23 (June 2000)].

2) Now you’re editing micro-fiction at Liquid Imagination. Is the editing different between micro-fiction and short stories (don’t laugh).

Other than having a smaller word count to read and scrutinize, I would have to say no, not really. I think in editing you bring a lot of the same core fundamentals to all forms of writing. The focus may change in some ways with a given form, but I still approach the writing with a sharp eye on the story details, the craft and basic mechanics of the writing, as well as a what I like to term as the ‘organics’ of the writing. That said, I think many editors approach another writer’s work as if it were their own, and that’s not something I like to do because the writing is not mine. However, with my name endorsing the writing, I do take the same amount of care and quality assurances as I would with my own writing, but I believe that my job as an editor is to support the author’s vision and, if I can, somehow enhance that vision to its utmost clarity.

3) Music and writing. As an accomplished musician who also interpreted every piece of poetry in one of our past issues, I can truthfully say that you know music, perhaps as well as you know writing. How does music and writing relate to each other? How do they differ? The reason I’m asking is because it takes an act of creativity to write a song, and songs often tell stories that are accompanied by music. And something else I want to know (so make this 4 questions with Brandon Rucker): Does inspiration used to write a song come from the same place from which you conjure up the inspiration to write a story?

Great, tough questions, which respectfully deserve to be answered after careful consideration. I think this is one of those things that multi-media-dwelling artists undoubtedly know internally, but rarely ever articulate into words for a general audience, so I will try my best to articulate this well.

The easy answer of how music and writing relate to each other is that, for me, their origins likely trace back to the same well. Yet I think motivations and goals can differ greatly and even sometimes be mutually exclusive at the same time. This isn’t double-speak, mind you. I just think that the variables are innumerable in the grand scheme of art. You know me. I should probably leave you with the easy answer on that part, otherwise we’ll be here a while. I always say, though, that most if not all art is ‘performance art’ because it is almost always created for an expected audience. Rarely is art created in a vacuum.

The obvious difference is in the sensory perception: one is auditory, the other visual. Another particular way writing music and writing words differs is that a musician is afforded the luxury of impressing upon the listeners the array of emotions he wants his audience to experience almost immediately. Sure, it’s not quite as immediate as, say, a visual artist who can get your reaction to their painting or sculpture within several seconds of viewing, but the gratification you get from listening to a piece of music is certainly a swifter experience than with reading a piece of fiction that’s more than a thousand words long. On the other hand, reading the words of a fiction writer is a little more interactive because the reader can then engage their (liquid) imagination, transport themselves into the story and become a part of it.

I think, for me, inspiration to write music definitely comes from a different place than the inspiration used to thrust me into writing a story. First, you have to understand that I’m far more into the actual music than say the words or even the vocals (though vocal melodies are a big part of what makes or breaks music with words). I’m an instrumentalist first, a vocalist dead last, LOL. So when I sit down with the guitar, or keyboard, or even the drum machine, my inspiration as well as my goal is far different than when I sit down to transform the story in my head into words on a page. For me, music comes from deep within my soul, and it may be cliché to say that it is innate, but for me that is certainly true. On the other hand, writing words is more cerebral. It is much more of a heady experience for me compared to music. Don’t get me wrong, composing and performing music can be a heady experience as well. Writing stories, even when inspired by true emotions, is still a more mentally challenging exercise because all of the filtering that we have to do as we channel the stories, the fictionalized lives of people and the world.


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