Monday, December 12, 2016

Authors To Watch: Kali Kucera, author of 'Unawqi, Hunter of the Sun'

Kali Kucera is an American lorist and short story writer living in Quito, Ecuador, where he also rides and writes about bus and train travel. Since he was 9 years old he has been composing plays, operas, short stories, and multi-disciplinary experiences. He has been both a teacher and performer as well as an arts mobilizer, and founded the Tacoma Poet Laureate competition in 2008.

His latest book is the mythical realism novel, Unawqi, Hunter of the Sun.


Title: Unawqi, Hunter of the Sun
Author: Kali Kucera
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 218
Genre: Mythical Realism

In a time when supernatural and industrial worlds are staged to collide, an Andean boy finds himself in the center of an epic struggle between the cosmos and the earth. Unawqi is born with both insurmountable power and a fate of certain death, both of which are challenged by his hunt of the emperor, Aakti, the Sun: the very force that desires to abandon the earth unless Unawqi can overcome him.

Premise: How easily we take the Sun for granted. We are conditioned to its rising and setting on time, and assume it enjoys doing so, or more likely is indifferent. Unawqi, Hunter of the Sun reveals a more perilous tale: the Sun, Aakti, is a being who is a reluctant player in providing light and warmth to our world, and even more has always desired to leave us to die if he didn’t have certain personal complications standing in his way. Aakti will stop at nothing to get what he wants, even if that involves murder of his own kin or annihilation of an entire living planet. Ironically, what holds him back is the very life he is creating; the family from which he tries to but cannot wrest control, and among them a young intrepid boy emerges, a hunter who sets out on a journey, not to stop the Sun, but to overcome him with a force we also take for granted: our humanity.

When did you begin writing?

When I was about 9 years old, I wrote my first poem about a statue of Thomas Burke I frequently passed when accompanying my mother to meetings at the University of Washington. From then on, the writing bug took many forms and never left me.

Describe your writing process. Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants? When and where do you write?

I record intense emotional moments that I encounter.  They don’t have to fit into a story I’m writing, but because they usually map to some aspect of the human experience we have recognized time and again, these fragments eventually find their way into some story or another.  So my writing process kind of looks like me sitting in a cafĂ© doing a jigsaw puzzle, there are scraps of real paper and scraps on my laptop, and even scraps still in my brain that I’m assembling together.

Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?

Probably Naira, because she seems to be the most untapped, like she hasn’t yet come out of her shell, but is just on the verge.  I myself want to know Naira better.  She seems to be a revolutionary in waiting.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?

It was the moment after I thought I was finished writing it. I read it through again, wanting to congratulate myself and move on, and instead ended up with a pit in my stomach feeling sadly that it was not done, but didn’t at that moment know what was missing.  Eventually that passed, but it was a terrible feeling of being surprisingly stuck.  At least in all the moments previous it was much more clear I wasn’t finished.

Which authors have inspired your writing?

Wole Soyinka has been a guiding light for me for a very long time. He has such a disruptive genius and sets our minds to worlds we are not yet ready to go, but he succeeds in getting us there.  I would also give credit to Tom Spanbauer (The Man Who Fell In Love With the Moon) for much the same approach to irreverent writing.  But mostly, I am inspired by traditional storytellers, who maintain the art of telling a fantastic story in as few words as possible. 

What projects are you currently working on?

I have a couple going on, but the most important is ‘Witch Pricker’, which is a historical fiction based on the life (and afterlife) of Matthew Hopkins, the 17th century Puritan who, with local public support, took the lives of over three-hundred women in the course of three years he condemned as witches. But that’s just the backstory. The larger tale is what became of Hopkins; how his rage continued to manifest itself over the centuries, and the psychological trauma he caused in the guise of making evil look benign.

What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?

Be unabashed. Don’t doubt yourself. Be prolific.

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