Posted on 06/22/2018 at 12:40 PM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
Author and artist Quent Cordair has come a long, long way from his upbringing.
He was raised, in his words, in an “insular fundamentalist religious sect,” but the local library gave him a critical window into the outside world.
Like many writers, he spent time in a variety of unrelated jobs to support his creative work, and the wait has paid off.
A fan of Cordair’s recommended that we interview the acclaimed author of several short-story collections, novels, and screenplays, who also runs an art gallery in Napa with his wife.
SADYE: In your own words, you were “raised in an insular, fundamentalist religious sect.” What effect do you think this has had on your writing?
QUENT: I was born and raised Pentecostal, a fundamentalist denomination of evangelical, charismatic Protestantism. It took me years as a young adult to work my way out of the sect, then progressively out of Christianity, out of religion, and finally out of mysticism altogether.
The legacy of my upbringing, yes, is stamped on my mind and soul, indelibly. It’s always with me, as an unforgettable, inescapable part of my history.
For better and worse, I have the intimate experience and knowledge of that deeply religious way of thinking and of viewing the world, of believing Man to be incurably flawed and base in nature, of holding faith to be superior to reason, of viewing life on Earth as a journey merely to be endured, a time of struggle against physical desires and worldly wants in exchange for eternal reward in the hereafter.
That orientation to life and the world is nearly the opposite of what I’ve come to believe and practice today. ...
All I’ve experienced and learned on my journey, from that to this, very much influences my writing, especially my current work in progress.
The Idolatry story, a five-part novel series, revolves around the how we view ourselves as a species — our deepest judgment of who we are as humans, of our place in the universe —and how our deepest premises about our identity and nature affect our personal relationships, our politics, our philosophy, the art we create, and especially — our love lives.
SADYE: You’re a visual artist and a verbal artist — how do these two talents affect each other?
QUENT: For me, they’re complementary, fascinatingly so.
I can set painting aside, even for years on end, trading brush for pen, and find myself noticeably a better painter on return to the easel. I can return to writing from having painted solely for long stretches to find myself a better writer.
While the media and tools of the arts may be different, the art of the art, the esthetic principles and practice, are fundamentally the same.
When I write, it’s often as though I’m trying to paint with words. When I paint, I’m trying to tell a story with line and color.
SADYE: Have you done all of your book covers?
QUENT: I’ve used one of my paintings as cover art, my Lunch Break painting for my Lunch Break collection of short stories and poems, but given the wonderful artists we represent in the gallery, it’s great to be able to make good use of their extraordinary talents too, whenever possible.
I’m honored to have one of our gallery’s most successful and popular painters, Bryan Larsen, creating a series of five paintings as cover art for the Idolatry series.
The images, of a woman’s hand touching and caressing various parts of a male nude sculpture carved in marble, very much capture the sensuality and passion at the heart of the story, the cherishing and celebration of the human form — the human body, soul, and mind.
SADYE: Where do you find your inspiration?
QUENT: Everywhere. While the religion and philosophy influence more significant, longer work, inspiration for my short stories, plays, flash fiction, and poetry can come from a brief interaction with an elderly woman in the grocery store, from a news article about immigration, from a moment in the park with friends, from a few lines of conversation overheard between strangers in a bar.
(Admittedly, I eavesdrop when working in public places.) People and their stories, in all their incredible variety and range, never cease to interest and captivate me.
SADYE: Fussy is staffed solely by pet lovers, with six cats and two dogs between the two employees, so we have to ask: Do your pets contribute anything to the creative process?
QUENT: Our pup, a border collie and kelpie cross, helps get me out of the house and into the great outdoors for an hour or so daily, healthy for both a writer’s mind and body.
One of our cats is very good about reminding me that there is life beyond the desk — as she swipes her tail across my keyboard or between my face and the screen.
Our other feline will remind me, quite verbally, with no provocation and less justification, that I should never lose track of the bottom line such we might no longer be able to afford food for her (as if!).
But the pets do help keep me grounded, attached to the real world. Their mannerisms and antics will work their way into my stories, too.
There are two dogs in Idolatry, both of which play important roles, and a treasured cat, the care for which his owner can’t bring herself to leave to chance, which helps save her from not caring whether she lives or dies in the pursuit of her dangerous profession.
SADYE: Besides being a short-story writer, you’ve written novels that mirror your love of romantic art. How much of yourself do you project into your work?
QUENT: I think of it less as projecting myself into my work than as the work being a projection of me.
The art is an extension of my values, a creation out of my own interests, of my own interests, reflecting my personal concerns and wants, my most treasured desires and passions.
Because I create for the pleasure of experiencing what I’ve created, I create what I hope to most enjoy — if I can manage to pull off the creation of it successfully.
Making art can be one of the most wonderfully selfish, most deeply and intimately rewarding activities in which a person can engage, with the closest equivalent, I think, being making love.
SADYE: What has been your proudest or most satisfying writing moment?
QUENT: It may have been while I was listening for the first time to the audio files sent by my narrator for his reading of the audiobook edition of Genesis, the first part of Idolatry.
That was a year or two after I had written and published the ebook and paperback editions, and being able to hear the lines fresh for the first time in a while.
And that was truly special, being able to hear the words come, word after word, and through the most meaningful passages the words being right, so right that I wouldn’t think of changing one of them.
Having the words add up to a meaning so intensely and personally meaningful to me — it brought tears.
Writing can be such difficult, challenging work — sometimes it’s grueling, sometimes it’s terribly frustrating — but there’s nothing I can imagine enjoying more, when I can get the writing right.
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Categories: Author Interview