Please welcome today's guest, Christian Usera, poet and author of the anthology The Four Corners. Usera grew up Washington, D.C. and graduated from New York University with a degree in English and Creative Writing. He has lived in four states as well as abroad in Spain and Bulgaria. While living in Sofia, Bulgaria he wrote a poetry compilation, entitled, Bulgarian Nights about his travels. In addition, Usera also wrote an earlier book of poetry cataloguing the years 2002-2008 called, Then Came The Rain.
He has also written four illustrated novels contained in the anthology The Four Corners. He has been featured in “Voces del Caribe,” an online scholarly journal sponsored by City University of New York, The Gypsy Art Radio Blog, Northern Virginia Magazine and The Midwest Book Review. Usera was also the subject of Marassa 2007, a presentation sponsored by the Comparative Literature Department of New York University and Kamau Brathwaite, a world-renowned Caribbean poet. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado.
Welcome to Red Room! Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about The Four Corners and what inspired you to write it?
The Four Corners is an anthology of four graphic novels regarding the themes of light, love, truth and wisdom. They were originally intended for children and to a large extent can be appreciated by them. Each work was crafted using different media: "The Ones" was constructed using spray paints on canvas, "Gate to Eden" was an acrylic on paper project, "Power of Three" was also completed using acrylic (however it was applied on gesso board) and lastly "The Elders" was made using a combination of watercolors, pastel w/ water (which infused the color) and crayons on watercolor paper. The collection is meant to be highly interpretive, however I will say that there is a spiritual component to the work. It is not intended to be dogmatic nor point to one particular religion. Instead the work poses some philosophical questions such as:
“Does anyone marvel at the fact that the universe was at one point ‘Nothingness’? For that matter what is ‘Nothing’? If Nothingness is theoretically the potentiality of being, what would one create out of that? Isn’t it a wonder that consciousness (or rather self awareness) wasn’t here, then appeared on the planet sudden? What is the nature of perception and reality? Are rules better for society or are ideals? Is there more to existence than the avoidance of pain and the seeking of pleasure?”
The work is at its core a series of folktales designed to be a rorschach test for the soul. It is not meant to proselytize people or berate anyone, rather to interject some intellectual inquiry. Its target audience includes artists, speculative thinkers and children of all ages.
Are you a full-time writer or do you have another job?
I do a little of this and a little of that. Odd jobs.
How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?
It’s a funny story. I actually created the image “Mother Nothing” for the book, The Ones at which point my friend said that the work looked like an image from a Gerald Mcdermott novel. This was the launching point for the anthology: to create a new mythic story. I got hooked creating illustrated books and haven’t stopped since.
As far as structure I usually create a “skeleton” and then add/subtract from there. I usually have an “Ah ha!” moment where I either make a specific addition or subtraction that makes the work complete. So to answer the question, a little bit of both: I outline the book in my head, write down a general idea and then ‘tinker’ with my work.
Do you use index cards to plot your book?
I don’t use index cards, rather once I have a completed working draft, when the major scenes of the book are solid, I compile a list. I describe the scene and then try to mentally map out how I am going to go about illustrating the work. Sometimes I choose not to work from a ‘linear’ platform. (I.E. I end up painting a scene from the middle, then the beginning then the end for example. )
How long did it take you to write the book?
Believe it or not it took me a LONG time! From the end of 2006-2009! So about three years. I completed “The Ones” and “Gate to Eden” in 2007, “Power of Three” in 2008 and “The Elders” in 2009.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
Of course! ? Doesn’t every writer! My biggest advice would be to STOP what you’re doing and go about life. The biggest mistake one could make would be to push beyond the limits of the frustration. It’s akin to an athlete trying to play through a broken bone or torn ligament. Take time away from the work then come back with ‘fresh eyes’ or better yet go over your ideas with a friend (or an enemy for that matter. ;) )
What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?
Life itself. I know it’s corny, but creativity is linked to one’s infinite imagination. There isn’t a shortage of ideas rather but perhaps an inner blockage which writers should try to detour around.
What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you? Share with us some writing tips!
Conducting interviews with very generous hosts is always great! ;) I recommend obtaining book reviews and contacting local magazines/papers. Also, if you have any professors from college willing to back your work, that’s incredibly helpful. (Especially if they’re famous writers.)
I’d like to add that I’ll be promoting this book at New York University in the late spring of this year sponsored by Kamau Brathwaite and the Comparative Literature Department of New York University. (April 2010 tentative date)
What authors or type of books do you read for fun?
Mostly books on alternative spirituality: Eckhart Tolle, Don Miguel Ruiz, Carlos Canstaneda, Neal Donald Walsch, Osho etc. I also love Palahniuk, Kafka, Kundera, Neil Gaiman, Paulo Coelho, Neruda, Borges and many many others. I am a bookworm. I don’t really read too much ‘fad fiction’ you won’t see the author of “Twilight” on my bookshelf anytime soon. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that… it’s just not my flavor.)
Do you think a critique group is essential for a writer?
I wouldn’t know I’ve never attended one. I do have a degree in creative writing so I’m familiar with the workshop setting. It can help, but I wouldn’t use the word essential. Critique is good- developing an insecurity about writing is not.
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?
Absolutely! www.myspace.com/theonesbook is the official website of “The Four Corners” as well as any future updates to my work.
You can follow me on Twitter as well @ CNUtheAuthor to get a week by week status check.
I’m also on Facebook, but that’s predominately a personal site.
You can however become a fan of CNUtheAuthor - which has just recently been posted.
Also one can purchase the book at this site: Https://www.createspace.com/3394262
Do you have another novel on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
Yes! I am currently working on project entitled, “Mascaro.” It is another illustrated work. It centers around this tribe, which becomes immersed in a game of building masks in order to pretend they are monsters. However after several generations they forget that this event is just a game and thus believe themselves to be these creatures. Can they discover the truth? Well we shall find out in about a few months. ?
I also have a side project that’s a spirituality paper, entitled “The Vertical Spirituality Manifesto” although I think I might just post that for free via social networking sites.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell my readers?
No sincere dream is laughable. Persevere and you will see how funny doubters truly are. I’d like to thank you for your time. Blessings.
Thanks for the interview!
The Four Corners is an anthology of illustrated folktales by Christian Usera. Each story is an inner journey into the heart of Light, Love, Truth and Wisdom. Although written in a childish voice, the style belies these complex surrealist proverbs.
Publication Date: Sep 01 2009
ISBN/EAN13: 0615313191 / 9780615313191
Page Count: 112
Binding Type: US Trade Paper
Trim Size: 8" x 10"
Color: Full Color
Related Categories: Comics & Graphic Novels / Fantasy
Purchase the book HERE.
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