Saturday, May 9, 2020

Twenty Questions with Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara (Steward Setback Saturday)

Why would a person allow himself to be legally fictionalized for a book series?

Read on and see. 

But before you do, I'd like to mention the good that's resulted out of this collaboration, and I'm not talking mney. (Nobody's making any serious money here).

One: Ed, who discusses his struggle to write through the years, was given space on this blog to write as the character he created. Yes, that's right. He created his own character for himself, and then I fictionalized it even further for the series. 

Two: Ed realized his dream of seeing some of his works in print when I published a collection of his blogs a couple years ago for Calkins Day that dealt with my Irish genealogy. (I'm not Irish. Ed made it all up).

Three: Ed is now writing is own book for the BryonySeries based on his (and some of mine) characters. And he gets free editing services for this and all of his writings.

Except for using the character in the books, none of these above benefits were stated in print; they've evolved over the years as we've gotten to know each other.

Twenty Questions with Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara

When I first started the BryonySeries blog in 2011, I posted this Q A with the real Ed Calkins in several installments. We did this interview months before the release of the first book, and it has never again been published.

Now for the first time, in living black and purple, is the entire interview with the man that ficionalized himself and allowed me to fictionalize him further for the series.

Just to clarify: Ed Calkins is a real person. He really lives somewhere Chicago-ish and was a supervisor for one of the agents when The Herald-News circulation passed from The Sun Times to the Chicago Tribune. I reported to Ed for my Marycrest route.

Having missed his Ed Calkins parade several years in a row, I offered, as consolation, a one-page monthly newsletter for his imaginary world or a spot in my series as a vampire. His response was, "Immortality, of course."

My attorney drew up the necessary paperwork for Ed to sign off himself. Seriously.

No Ed, is not insane, but wonderfully creative. If you want to know Ed, read the novels, for I dutifully scrawled on brown paper wrapping snatches of conversation overheard in passing at the distribution center while Ed handed out papers or in longer conversations by phone to weave in real dialogue with the imaginary dialogue and overall character arc.

I also spent much time with him, getting to know his "ruthless dictator" persona, as to accurately portray it. In a wonderful and truly humbling act of trust, Ed did not want to read any drafts; rather, he wanted the experience of his fictional self however I chose to write it, a very literary and legally-bound, "Do with me as you will."

It was marvelously empowering.

PS: I did such a good writerly job with Ed that one day, after Timothy had been out of the distribution center for a year attending Joliet Junior College and working at the Renaissance Center, he offered to help us roll papers one night and ran into Ed.

Ed said something to the effect of, "Wow, I haven't see you in a long time." Timothy blinked, yes, literally blinked, in surprise, for he had been reading drafts of Staked! as I had chaptered it off and felt as if he'd seen Ed every day.

Any blog post on this series attributed to Ed was really written by Ed. Just so you know.

And now, the interview:

        1)      Who is the ruthless dictator?

“My son was doing a lot of role playing games, and he was trying to come up with a bard and give him magical powers. I told him there was no need coming up with magical items, because bards are already too powerful, providing they’re not trying to seek notoriety for themselves. Ruthless dictators are not afraid to die. They’re just afraid of how they’ll be remembered. It’s not effective to compose a song or a limerick or an epic poem glorifying yourself. You’ve got to have other people saying it about you. Why not cut the military in half and invent some really good limericks? You can really insult someone into submission.”

2)      Why did you invent him?

“I was bullied as a boy, so it came from the way I would get back at bullies. I would think something negative about them, because verbalizing it wouldn’t go well. In my mind, I called it even. The ruthless dictator really started when I got a ticket running a stop sign when I was delivering newspapers on a really snowy day. If I had stopped, I would never have gotten going again. I really thought the ticket was unfair. As revenge, I picked ten people out f the phone book and thought bad things about them. My wife thought that was pretty corny. Later, I took over the entire town. I didn’t have to conquer a nation. It just had to be a place, at least metaphorically. It had to have its own identity.”

3)      What was your reaction when asked to become part of a vampire novel?

“I was nervous at revealing my ignorance about vampires. I didn’t know a lot about it. I worked quickly to remedy it.”

4)      Why did you accept?

“Immortality, of course. I can’t think about myself in everything. I have to think about 1,000 years from now, and if there’s going to be a three-day holiday in my name or not. There’s a side of me that thinks this could be goofy enough to think this could actually happen.”

5)      Weren’t you afraid of how you might be portrayed?

“No, and a lot of that comes from my survival mechanism as a kid. I learned to play along with the bullies rather than fight them. Part of my comedic outreach is self-deprecating, so it didn’t really seem that anything negative could hurt me. The ruthless dictator would say, ‘Look, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.’ King Midas is much better off than King Midas the Second, even though he was portrayed in a bad light, because nobody remembers King Midas the Second.”

6)      What if fans expect the real Ed Calkins to be similar to the fictional Ed Calkins?

“He is like him. There’s just that side of him. He’s significant in an offbeat way, enough to where he can claim the stewardship of Tara without blushing.”

7)      The Irish have no solid vampire legends. How do you feel about being the first, real Irish vampire?

“I think other people will make more of that than I will. Being known as the Steward of Tara is more of a crowing achievement in my mind.”

8)      Where did your love of Irish lore and history begin?

“It started with my love of history. Then I looked into mythology, and I used to tell my son a lot of tales and legends. When he reached high school and heard the same thing, my credibility rose in his eyes. One thing I had told him that wasn’t really true is that Ireland was always a backwash of European history, unless your interest is war. Then, it is probably true. There were many Irish warriors. It’s just they tended to be fodder; they were never fighting for IrelandIreland is probably the only place where you get a sense of what pre-Christianity was about, so if you want to know Ireland, just study its myth. Even before I was really into being Irish, I had a disdain for the Roman Empire, which, I think, gave me a bias toward the Irish. In all honesty, I’m American, but my heritage is Irish. It only takes going to Ireland to know that.”

9)      How did you research your Irish heritage?

“I’ve read a lot of books. Also, as a college freshman, I got put into an Irish literature course, which I wasn’t very interested in it at the time. I’m not one of those people who have forgotten much of what they learned in college. So it stayed with all these years in a recessive way. The problem is that I’m very bad with names. The proper study of Irish mythology involves heroes, kings, and saints, in that order. They are alive today through the last names. I just don’t know who these people are.”

      10)   When did you begin writing?

“I started with poetry. In the eighth grade I wrote poem that resonated a little bit.        So, throughout high school, I wrote poetry. I was an editor of the literary magazine and the editor in chief the last year. Something bizarre about me is that I can’t finish anything. I have these really organized fantasies, but I’m not a wordsmith. I just lost my hard drive, which means I lost everything I’ve written for the last twenty years. I should be beside myself, but I’m not, because none of the pieces were really finished

       11)   What have you written?

“I actually wrote a historical fiction novel when I was in high school. I had a         fascination for Hannibal, so I put myself on the other side facing Hannibal’s army. I didn’t really know how to handle it, but I did write it.”

        12)   How had you shared your writings in the past?

“I posted them. When I was working on my trilogy, someone would send me an e-mail that said, “Send me your story,” and I’d send them a few chapters. Then I’d get another email saying, ‘That was great. Send me some more.’ So, a lot of it was praise-driven. The problem is that twenty years have passed. The protagonist has become darker and the eroticism is no longer interesting, I hate to admit. In my mind, I’ve reduced the second book to a single, short story. Also, every novel I’ve written was also an idea for a game. I had done a really good job of writing the games, again not finished. The smallest details completely derail a project for me.

13)    How do you overcome writer’s block?

“The truth is I don’t. My writing block is fear. By the time I do write, it’s only because the ideas have been spilling out over and over and over again through my mind, to where it’s enough already. The details have become an irritant, so I just sit down and write.”

14) What motivates you to compose a limerick?

   “I get ticked off, and my mind starts putting lines together. It’s different with limericks because I don’t have to actually write them. A limerick is not fine art. Because of its structure, a kindergartener is just as good as composing limericks as an adult.”

          15)  Why is legacy important to you?

“I think it’s fascinating to me in the same way history is. Think of Sue, the Tyrannosaurus Rex, which lived approximately 25 million years ago and compare that to the 6,000 years of civilization. In the eyes of God, dinosaurs must be a statement of survivability. Humanity is still an experiment in its infancy. When all is said and done, the history of humans is going to be a lot more significant than the bones of a creature, but we’re not there yet. We’re gong to have to start with many things, including being a lot older than 6,000 years. Maybe there won’t be an Ed Calkins parade that 6,000 years old, but maybe there will a 1,000 years old Ed Calkins Day parade, which will create the much larger tradition of there still being parades.”

16) How did the idea for Ed Calkins day parade originate?

“I discovered that my birthday and Valentines Day had a little conflict when I started dating my wife. The first year I was dating her, we went out and celebrated my February 13th birthday. Guess what happened on the fourteenth?  I didn’t have Valentine for her. That offended her at the time. My defense was, ‘Come on, it was my birthday.’ I guess where started. Then I started joking with other people that my birthday should be a national holiday. When you couple that with Lincoln’s birthday and the stars aligned in the sky, you can see it was meant to be.”

17)  You’re famous for cookouts, Queen of Christmas contests, candy canes and Santa hat distribution and palette jack races. Why host these things?

“Have fun, of course. Distribution centers can be so dreary. If everyday is like the last, no one wants to get up.

18)   Do you own a kilt?

“I used to, but I gave it away to my brother. It no longer fit, at the waistline. So, currently, I do not have a kilt. They’re not cheap. They can cost a couple hundred dollars.”

19)  For what occasions did you wear it?

“Initially I wore it St. Paddy’s day. I wore it the whole day. I was I in newspapers and, yeah, I went to work with it. My wife wouldn’t let me do it after I married her. It happened this way. I have a way of not taking care of garments. When I was starting to date her, most of my jeans had holes in them. She takes care of her possessions. That how I knew we were serious when she started washing my clothes. But when a woman starts washing your clothes, she gets to say what get discarded and what gets kept. You know my striped shirts? Those were her idea. My wife now dresses me. I used to dress differently.

20)  What are your plans for this blog?

“I’d like make some myths of my own, but that won’t start until the book comes out. I’m thinking it might be fun to add different side stories of the character into the blog, but maybe, too, I might be able to introduce some of the traditional Irish myths. I’ve been wanting write something about the interplay of state fairs in Ireland. There were laws concerning them, such as you couldn’t arrest anyone during a fair and you could not engage in war. All combat had to be resolved before a fair was scheduled to start. I’d also like to write about the Knights of the Red Branch and maybe some adventure that happens to some of the knights. That’s the neat thing about a blog. Speaking from the character, if something doesn’t fit, or if there is something else I want to say, I can always come back with, ‘I was just joking. Here’s what really happened.’ I’m very excited about this. I feel I’m getting closer to that three-day holiday.”

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