Ron Riekki’s books include U.P. and The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (Wayne State University Press, a 2014 Michigan Notable Book). He’s at work on a novel.
3ER: Was there a specific element that sparked your story idea?
RR: Yes, the prompts you gave for the stories. That, and adjunct faculty poverty. I realized the level of adjunct faculty poverty when I looked at a Waffle House janitor’s pay stub and said to him, “Wow, you’re like a millionaire.” If community college students only knew that they were learning from the homeless.
3ER: What do you want to tell readers about your piece?
RR: It’s in English, so if you’re trying to read it like it’s in French it’s not going to make a lot of sense. Although there are some cognates in there. But seriously though, if you can’t read English, it’s just about pointless. Don’t even get me started if you start reading it thinking it’s in Chinese.
3ER: If you could choose any three elements, what would they be?
RR: Choose, elements, three. But not in that order.
3ER: Describe your writing process.
RR: I usually conjure up a vision that I’m accepting a Nobel Prize for Literature or an Emmy for Literature or an Oscar for Literature or a Tony for Choreography and that there are a stream of Ivy League universities offering me $100,000 a semester courses to teach Creative Writing 301 and then I start sweating bullets as I realize the sentences are not adding up to the high bar needed for an Academy Award for Literature, but I keep typing and think maybe a cute girl will read it if it gets published and she’ll email me and then we’ll get married and she’ll know someone on the board for the Oscars and I’ll get in the back way. Like Angelina Jolie did it.
3ER: Do you write in a certain place? Listen to music? What are your rituals?
RR: I usually write in bed. Typically because I cannot afford the big fancy-schmancy desk that Joyce Carol Oates likes to show off in every photo I’ve seen of her. Sure, Joyce Carol, you have a desk. You don’t have to rub it in everyone else’s faces. Geez! As far as music, I listen to a lot of stuff, but I keep thinking about how uppity Joyce Carol is with that desk. It’s like she features the desk more than her in every photo. “Oh, make sure you get my desk in the background. Does my desk look good? It’s really expensive.” As far as rituals, I really like to . . . you know what, I can’t get over the whole desk thing. It’s really pissing me off. I’m going to fire off a tweet to her right now.
3ER: Who are your favorite writers?
RR: Kathy Acker, Nelson Algren, Richard Brautigan, Poppy Z Brite, Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Leonard Cohen, Dennis Cooper (although I’ve never read him, but I heard he’s good), Douglas Coupland, Harry Crews, . . . and that’s just the first three letters of the alphabet. I’ll stop there. If I got all the way to Z, you’d be sick of the list. Especially because there are several letter Z writers on my list. About two hundred. I’m not joking.
3ER: What book, story, or poem do you wish you had written? Why?
RR: The Bible. I know I could get a full-time faculty job if I wrote the Bible. Especially at a Christian college.
3ER: Why do you think writing matters?
RR: The Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989. Support the Dalai Lama. Ten words and I just got your web site banned in China. Writing matters. Of course, 1.351 billion people in China won’t be able to read that writing matters, but the 4.38 million people in Kentucky will be able to. And my audience, to be honest, is pretty limited to the state of Kentucky.
3ER: What is the weirdest dream you’ve ever had?
RR: My cousin is making out with Goliath–not from David and Goliath, but the Lutheran stop motion cartoon dog–and I’m trying to break it up so that I can see the drive-in movie theater screen and a barbershop quartet breaks into our car to announce that they just discovered a cure for hemorrhoids and I say, “What about cancer?” and the lead singer says, “What’s that?” Truly makes you think, doesn’t it?
3ER: Where can we read more of your work?
RR: Google Ron Riekki and enjoy the wealth of material available for free online. Or Duckduckgo Ron Riekki and avoid the NSA watching you enjoy the wealth of material available for free online.
Ron has three stories out now in Issue 3! Here is an excerpt from Ah, to Burn:
But the Dean wanted more. He realized there were incarcerated PhDs, prisoners with terminal degree MFAs. Not sex offenders and murderers, but marijuana dealers and chronic reckless driving aficionados. Harmless, useful, sitting there in jail when they could truck them in, have them earn their keep. The local prison was surprisingly receptive. They’d had a recent riot, something that made national news, and they needed a publicity stunt to save their image.