Ron Estrada is a writer from Elmhurst, Illinois, just west of Chicago. A husband to one woman and a father to two boys, 3 and 1, he’ll say yes to garlic, the Oxford comma and bebop but no to glitter, dark chocolate and water snakes.
TITLE OF LATEST WORK
“Reborn” is my novel-in-progress.
What was the initial motivation for this work?
I became interested in the processing of tragedy, I don’t know when this happened. Maybe it was small deaths of people close to me and then, the biggest to date, my grandmother in 2004. My father was, is, a musician and I often spent weekends with my grandmother playing poker and cooking bread, sausage and peppers, spaghetti “gravy,” as we, my family, and many other local Italians, call it. Anyhow, my grandmother and I were awfully close, always. She smoked and died from cancer and it all happened pretty quickly. It was a big acceptance and still is at times. Even young I thought about the approach of death when it wasn’t necessarily immediate and I missed people before they were gone. My new story explores the taking of tragedy and the then handling of it.
Is your main character a recurring one in your writing?
No. Though it sometimes feels like it because I’ve been thinking about this character for quite a long time, this man dealing with the death of his wife. (There’s no mystery she’s dead; it’s introduced right away in the story.) I feel that way with a lot of my characters because I think they’ve been living in cubby holes in my psyche, like recipes we pick up along the way and don’t know the full taste of until we put the saucepan on the stove and add coriander. I don’t think my protagonist will live on in any other stories. I like to let them live on in their own privacy after we part.
What message or feeling did you want to leave with your audience?
I don’t really know. I don’t like the cliched sound of “life is fragile” and “live for today” but I can see that being a message that might come across, even though I have no interest in this book being a motivational poster. Though maybe it will be to some. And that’s fine, of course. I’m interested in the story that becomes the story for the reader. I do hope for an emotional dive. I hope the sad parts come across as sad. I hope the joyous parts come across as so. I mostly want to introduce the reader to a character who is meeting life, a part of life that he doesn’t really want though, if he wants to live, has to face. I think that happens all the time. Perhaps it’ll be insightful watching someone else, a different one of us, experience it.
What sorts of challenges or insights have you had writing this?
My writing is very stream-of-conscience. My wife says it’s “left-branching,” though tells me that suggest something negative. (She doesn’t think so.) Anyhow, there’s a glide to it that I need to balance well with the story I want to tell and not just in how I want to tell it. This is a general challenge. It’s something I give my attention to, maybe mostly in the editing or rewriting process. With this book, with what my main character is working through, there are times when he’s absent from his own world, pedestrian in his own life. The story needs these moments but the flow thickens at these times. It can be a challenge to make things interesting when things aren’t interesting to your characters.
What sort of research might you do before you begin writing?
I’ve revisited writers who’ve written about loss (C.S. Lewis, Joan Didion, etc.) and talked to everyday folk about their being widows or widowers, not interviewing them but, more, just listening to the things they chose to share. But we’ve all lost and will continue to lose those we love. Because of that I think that readers will find much that feels familiar, even if it’s on a different scale. It can be hard writing all of this, to face it; my heart often hurts.
What sort of stories do you normally write? (Is this story a break from your norm?)
I’ve always written much shorter pieces than I’m writing now. When I first started writing seriously, and probably reading seriously, much of what I read and wrote was short fiction. For me there was no surprise that once reflected the other. Raymond Carver was a big influence stylistically. I love many of his stories. He wrote about being a short story writer, “Get in, get out. Don’t linger.” That was comforting to me. Something much longer felt impossible to scale as a young writer. I feel more comfortable with it now. It feels more necessary.
Are you a member of a writing group – either online or a physical one?
I’m not part of anything formally organized right now. Well, I contribute to Today’s Author and there is shared advice and tips and that’s well organized so maybe I am. But nothing like a workshop or specific meeting date with a specific group of writers. I have before signed up for workshop classes at a local college, which I think is a good thing. Like-minded folks and structure can be helpful. And often there’s a class at night, which plays well with anyone who has a regular, straight job like me. I think it’s important to have a community to call on, writer friends or reader friends you trust. Someone you can lump a manuscript on their laps without much pushback. I’m not really a genre writer but I know there are many genre-specific groups around.
What advice or tips do you have for writers who feel they are stuck or have “writers block”?
Well, we suffer over our writing; that’s natural and fine and, hopefully, part of being a serious writer. I think that once a writer starts to focus on the “block” then they lose focus on the writing. It’s okay if things aren’t gushing out. Be patient and allow yourself some grace. Pay attention to how you write/read/think and how that results in a complete story/novel/poem. If that means you’re stuck with where a story wants to go, let it simmer, but continuously be a part of it. If you get frustrated and words aren’t coming, maybe go on to something else where the words are, write something different.
How can others follow your journey?
I started a blog a few years ago to have a forum to publish some short, reflective essays on all sorts of topics that grab me. They’re usually about 600 words, I think. Not very long. I don’t talk about my novel on my site. I guess I feel it may prompt an interaction that I’m not ready to have yet. I want the relationship right now to just be between me and story. Who knows, though. Maybe a shared novel journal will sound pleasing in the future. Or I’ll just share some bites, a teaser trailer of sorts. I’m going to think about that.