My friend and colleague, Walter Rhein, both write for author Janet Morris' Perseid Press. He is the author of Perseid Press release Reckless Traveler, an expat novel dealing with his adventures living and traveling in Peru. In addition to that, Walter runs the blog StreetsOfLima, and also writes for Silent Sports and Singletracks. Not only a very fine writer, he's also extremely tech savvy, a wonderful family man, and a real stand-up guy. So here's a little interview I did with him sharing his thoughts and insights on things literary and cinematic, and of course on traveling to far away places. Ladies and gentleman, I give you Mr Walter Rhein.
What and who are some of your influences and inspirations?
I’m a big fan of Roald Dahl actually. I think it’s funny that his work is criticized lately, because I sense within his words an understanding of children and a sincere desire to protect them. Perhaps Dahl comes too close to piercing the great deception we’re all seduced into believing, and he proposes a world where wickedness is duly punished and goodness prevails. I’m also a huge fan of Charles Bukowski. His work is very complex but also very readable.
How and why did you decide to start writing?
That’s not a decision really, you just start doing it. Writing helps me make sense of things. There’s something about putting a random sequence of experiences into a narrative that helps create a certain hope of meaning. Also, once I’ve written something down I can often stop thinking about it, which is rewarding too.
What genres and/or literary style do enjoy writing in the most?
Lately I’m finding the most enjoyment of writing things that actually get read. I’ve been doing articles for the local paper and those have been finding their way into the internet stratosphere (this one went viral). It’s fun when you manage to write something that engages other people, no matter if it’s a story or an article or a comment on a meme. It’s not easy to write something that stands out, and on the few occasions I’ve been able to do that, I’ve achieved a great sense of satisfaction.
Tell us about your latest published book, short story or novella.
My latest book is Reckless Traveler, my expat travel novel about living in Lima, Peru. This book has been doing very well, and I’ve received some lovely reviews. I also write regularly for Silent Sports (I even had a cover image not too long ago). The Silent Sports articles are about running, bicycling and cross-country skiing, but I’m trying to make them a little more literary. I’ve really enjoyed working with the editor Kelly O’Day. He just sent an article of mine back with some magnificent suggestions. It’s so much easier to place your work when the editors who look them over offer golden suggestions. I’m also putting up new content on my blog Streets Of Lima lately. Mainly with that one, I just try to antagonize people in search of shares, but I try to offer a nice paragraph or two on occasion.
Besides the “entertainment factor,” what do you strive for in your writing?
I hope that after reading something of mine a person is more equipped to confront the trials of his or her day. It’s actually quite startling how small a “theme” actually is. Most of my books can be reduced to a single sentence or two. But the magic of writing a novel is that hopefully, by the end, the person hasn’t just accepted the them you were trying to present, but has adopted it into his or her personality. I try to convey the little bits of truth I’ve picked up along the way (through error and hardship mostly). I do this with the best intentions, but the older I get, the more I come to understand that nothing makes people angrier than hearing the truth.
Would you say that your stories are more plot-driven or character-driven?
I’d be curious to hear how other people who have read my work answer that. I guess I’d have to say character-driven since I like to create characters and then see what happens when I put them together. Sometimes I try to push them down a certain plot path, but I suppose if the characters just won’t go there then I’ll change plot before I change character.
What can you tell us about your latest work(s) in progress?
Perseid Press is in possession of the completed manuscript for the sequel to “The Reader of Acheron.” The book is titled “The Literate Thief” and it follows the same characters from the first book as they go on a semi-reluctant mission to the largest metropolitan area of their region. The book has been through its first round of edits, but I’m curious to hear what Janet Morris has to say about it. I think it’s a good book and I’ll be excited to get it into the hands of some reviewers. If you were a fan of “The Reader of Acheron” I think you’ll like the sequel, sort of in the same way you liked The Empire Strikes Back after seeing Star Wars.
What are some literary goals you’d like to achieve?
I’d like to write something that a person who is feeling a bit of mental agitation can read, and at the end of reading that work, the person finds peace. I’m not talking about a temporary peace that comes from a couple hours of escapism. I’d like them to feel peace and to be able to take that piece with them going forward and feel better for it.
What genre of fiction have you not yet written for, but plan to in the future?
I’d like to write some science fiction. I’ve done some short stories but I haven’t done a science fiction novel. I have a couple ideas.
Name a few of your favorite literary characters and tell us why they are your favorites?
D’Artagnan because he’s a young guy making his way with a bunch of frat boys he admires (although secretly they’re a bunch of jokers). Obi-Wan Kenobi because he’s pretty sincere about doing the right thing and all too aware he’s not up to the task. King Arthur for the same reason as Obi-Wan. Danny’s dad from ‘Danny the Champion of the World’ because it’s very important to him to be a good father, and he does so by actually being one rather than talking about it.
What are some of your all-time favorite films and TV shows?
I grew up on Star Wars and Indiana Jones. I’ve always had an affection for 7 Samurai. I’ve been watching the remastered Star Trek TV series and I really like what they did there. Northern Exposure had a big effect on me when I was little. I like Machette and the Road Warrior. Monty Python is pretty important as are all the films of Terry Gilliam. I just watched the animated version of The Hobbit with my daughters recently and they got a kick out of it. The ‘78 version of Superman is delightfully weird. I saw Pulp Fiction the first day it was released. Big Trouble in Little China is a good one as are all the films of John Carpenter.
Tell us about your writing habits, such as: Do you outline extensively? Do you create your characters first, or your plot? Do you listen to music while writing, and if so, what kind?
I outline a little bit. I usually just start writing chapters and then when I’ve got enough situations that I want my characters to be in, I start having to diagram a way to get them there. It’s all about solving problems in a reasonable way at that point. The characters are first. I don’t listen to music while writing; I’ve never been a big music guy.
Thanks so much for taking the time to interview me!
And thank you, Walter, for agreeing to be part of "the show," and the first person to be interviewed by yours truly!
Walter can be reached for comments at: WalterRhein@Gmail.com
You can find him and his books at:
Perseid Press: http://www.theperseidpress.com/