This week I got to interview a writer that is diverse and interesting the very talented Robert Kennedy. Roberts’s writing takes on many forms and for that reason I wanted to interview him to show that diversity in writing can come from one person, we are not all set to write in one particular style and Robert proves that ! I hope you all enjoy Roberts’s insights as much as I did.

First can you tell me a bit about yourself ?

Life has been quite diverse for me. I dropped out of high school at 15 and the first thing I bought was an electric guitar. But I took lessons in classical guitar over four years, and on an electric guitar this was quite unusual, more so for my teacher. At the age of 20, I bought my first of many pianos, and it’s the piano that has stuck with me for the last 30 years.

I settled on a career in music but writing and poetry would always hold a strong influence over me. After many years study to become a composer and with seven years study in composition and orchestration, writing and poetry finally became stronger than my love of music.

Music and composition is still with me, but today writing has the louder, stronger voice. I have written one book, with three new ones on the go. I have many short stories, and I’ve had my writing published in a variety of newspapers, magazines, books and online. As a poet, my writing has a distinct style, and you can feel my poetical influences in my prose. I hope people find that my words have a way of getting under their skin – in a good way.

Did you always want to be a writer or did you have a different goal growing up ? 

Even before music found me at 15, I wrote. I particularly remember my mother reading the short stories I’d written to the rest of my family. I use to hide behind the curtains in the hallway as she read, peeking into the lounge room to see their reactions; though I never kept any of those stories. My Mother’s father was a journalist and a speechwriter for Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley. I’m sure some of Granddad’s blood is in me.

My goal always was, and still is to be an artist. Whether it is a composer, a writer, or painter; creativity and innovation are the first and last things in me.

You have written short stories and a novel how different is the process for writing a short story versus a novel ? 

I feel short stories should exhibit more of a poetic nature. And like poetry be compact and hold a small world in them. Verse-prose is a favourite format of mine for many of my short stories. In love as I am with almost everything that Dorothy Porter wrote, this has highly influenced me to use verse-prose to get to the heart of a subject, and fully reveal its inner world.

Cate Kennedy (no relation) has many interesting things to say about short stories; her stories are full of punch and breathe well at the same time. She has won many prizes for her short stories and even got into The New Yorker magazine.

The difference between short story and novel-writing for me is the encapsulated effect that short stories offer, as opposed to the extended, more worldview of a novel. And that’s produced by economy of words, style and feel. Novels have more of a narrative; you go along for a ride with them. Short stories quickly take you somewhere, usually to a surprising destination.
You also write poetry do you prefer one style of writing more than the other ?

Its horses for courses; a style must fit the format. Of course, you can blend, as with verse-prose, so I have no preference. I find that style is the first thing I hear when conjuring a story. Many things also come at me poetically. I run an arts group, DiVerse, we transcribe visual art into poetry. It’s known as an Ekphrasis, it’s an ancient Greek term. Charles Baudelaire said, “Perhaps the best account of a painting is a sonnet or elegy”. I’m a great believer that you find the style in the format. While there are many things that can be altered and extended, like what the Ekphrasis form does to painting, a subject will scream out its style to you. It does for me.

Therefore, I will write in the style that is presented to me by the form, or content of the subject. This for me is a feeling; something will feel poetic, something will feel prosaic and other things can be done free form, or without style, such as stream of consciousness writing.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? 

Play the piano; go on walks and bike rides with my partner. I don’t really find nature inspirational, but for relaxing and enjoying, I find being in nature clears my head. It provides me with an untangled view of the world that makes complete sense. Opposite to the tangle that humans create, which just stilts innovation and inspiration.

What writers do you look up to or most enjoy reading? 

Some of my favourite authors are Patrick White, H.G. Wells, Vladimir Nabokov, and Ayn Rand. H.G. Wells is a particular influence on me; his ideas of social justice lie at the heart of a lot of my writings and thoughts. Along with the great inventive and dramatic ideas that Wells brought to his writing, my aim is to bring not only the dramatic but also that inner world of seldom spoken feeling and wants out onto the page.

Just finished The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, it’s particular style of foretelling annoyed me, but later I found it to be perhaps the best book I’ve ever read. And like the ending in his book, it haunted me.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers? 

I’m still an aspiring writer; I’ve said this to many people, fiction writing is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, ever harder than orchestration and composition for a full orchestra. To not crumble (love that split infinitive) under the weight of writing, you need strength, physical and mental strength. You need to be healthy to sit at computers or your writing desk for most of your life. Strong fast walks are completely necessary for me, they are as necessary as writing, and you need to be able to turn writing on and off, when you need it. 

What is the best piece of advice you were given as a writer?

It’s the age-old advice, and I’ve found it’s the best advice because it works – just write.

Of all the books and short story collections you have written, do you have a favourite? 

Yes, it’s Two Things I Forgot. It’s actually based on an old B&W movie, I’m not telling which one, it’s very B. Like poetry, for me this is all about how it feels and it feels completely earth less. It’s not bound to a form, or style. It is all feeling, which is how I wanted it to work.

Finally what are you working on now ?

Two things, the first one is a project called The Book of Fascination. This is to be a multi authored, multi platform initiative. You can find information on that here.

The second is my latest novel, still struggling with the title, is about, hmmm, should I be saying this? It’s a story very loosely based on the life of David Walsh. Who? That crazy guy that owns MONA. I find him life fulfilling. He is a joy to hear and watch. For me he represents what humanity should be. That is, he represents a real life, and real living. I believe it is only certain wealthy people in this world who actually ever really get to live. He is free, and got free by his own constructions. David, is truly free, and it’s my belief that in our western world, it is only money that can set you free. Think of this what you like, I’m like David, in that I don’t care what you think about me.

Of course, it’s not money that sets you free; it’s what you do with it. He has built a museum, in his words “a cathedral to the secular”, he gathers art, supports, and promotes art and artists; he gives us all this art and his life and all his efforts for free. This is the type of person that I want to write about, because there is a true, unique, and revealing story in David. 

Thank you very much Robert for taking the time to answer all my questions ! For anyone who is interested I have included links to Roberts’s work and to his proposal for The Book Of Fascination. Robert is looking for Australian authors to contribute to the work so if you interested take a look at the proposal !

You can find Robert’s words, music, and images at various sites below.