- Author Interviews»Interview with Stephen Page
Interview with Stephen Page
Kev’s Author Interviews Presents:
Author of A Ranch Bordering the Salty River
Kev: Tell us a bit about yourself, Stephen.
Steve: Hello, Readers. How are you? I am fantastic. My name is Stephen Page, but you may call me Steve. I was born in Detroit into a family with Irish, English, Shawnee, and Apache lineage. I am the author of The Timbre of Sand, Still Dandelions, and A Ranch Bordering the Salty River (by Finishing Line Press). I graduated with two AA’s from Palomar college, a BA from Columbia University, and an MFA From Bennington College. I currently live in Argentina and am married to a bewitching Argentine woman. I love traveling, adventuring, reading, Netflix-bingeing, spending time with my family, and occasionally throwing my cell phone off a high bridge.
Kev: What’s your latest book called and how did you come up with the title?
Steve: The title of the book is A Ranch Bordering the Salty River. I derived the name from the fictional location of a ranch/farm which happens to have a salty river along one of its borders.
The Salty River works as a metaphor for the briny relationship the main character, Jonathan, has with his employees and business partners.
Kev: Which Genre do you have it listed under and does it cross any other genres?
Steve: It is a collection of poems, a novel in verse, a work of fiction . . . so yes, it does cross genres . . . or maybe it can best be called a genre-rich book . . . a bundle of genres . . . a bound genrae.
Kev: Tell us a little bit more about it.
Steve: This book tells the story of Jonathan, a rancher who learns how to run a ranch in an environmentally conscious manner. He learns how treat the animals humanely and the employees justly. He ensures that a generous portion of land is kept feral as a wildlife refuge and a haven for local flora. He daily battles cattle rustlers, horse thieves, contract hustlers, saboteurs, and violent people . . . until . . . well, so I won’t spoiler-alert, you will have to read the book to see how the story plays out.
Kev: Introduce us to your main character
Steve: I picture Jonathan as an intellectually rugged man. He wakes early to sip coffee while watching the sun rise over fields of clover and listen to the morning birds sing. He puts on his rancher clothes and steps out of his house and steps up into his white pickup or hops on his roan horse to perform a recorrido(tour of the ranch), where he checks on the state of the livestock, makes certain security gates are locked and closed, supervises the employees on their daily routines, mandates orders of the day, ensures that his business partners who plant seeds and harvest on his land are rotating the crops properly—and most especially do not spray herbicides/pesticides that are on “the worst environmentally hazardous product lists.” He often works in the corral with the gauchos (South American cowboys). Sometimes, or whenever he can, which is never as often as he likes, he slips away and sits in the woods and sips mate(a loose-leaf tea drunk from a gourd through a metal straw) and just relishes the beauty of living on a piece of land that is rich with nature. Jonathan is an ethical person who believes in fair-play and wants to do good things in the world. He is honest but naïve in the world of business and business people—that is where the tension arises in the poems/story.
Kev: Provide a teaser/short passage from your book.
Steve: Here is the first poem of the collection, which introduces the voice of the main character, and provides the setting:
In a field northeast of Wood
the soy is stunted,
the pods hang brown and brittle
the leaves twirl dunly.
I never knew there could be so many!
How angry they sound in the afternoon:
hundreds of white wood hives
pueblo the edge
I could not reach Wood,
the bramble and burrs
were too thick
boundaring the tree line
with my bare legs.
My ranch house sits kilometers
away, my 4 by 4 is parked
on the road behind me.
I want to enter the Myth
of Wood, the legend of its shade
to lick the dew off leaves.
The thistle has bloomed to seed.
Steve: And here are the epigrams, which help set up the story:
“I is someone else.”— Arthur Rimbaud. “The known interprets the obscure, the universe is alive with myth.” – Ernest Fenolloso. “It behooves man now not to separate himself too jauntily from any of nature’s creatures.” – Charles Olson. “The World has a soul.” – Allen Ginsberg. And “Out of our quarrel with others we make rhetoric. Out of our quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.” – William Butler Yeats
Kev: When you wrote this work, did you write off-the-cuff or use some kind of formula like an outline?
Steve: I just started writing poems regularly out on a piece of land on the Pampas(the Argentine grain belt/plains). I often sat in the early morning hours by or in a wooded area and wrote about nature and the synthesis of human beings with the rest of the natural world. Then, after I started working on the land, I thought of an imaginary account of a rancher/farmer trying to use the land profitably yet environmentally friendly, and those topics cropped up in my poems. Eventually, I found a line threading through the poems I had been writing for over a year, and a common thesis was revealed to me with a drama playing out. So, there was no outline. Not at first anyways. The only formula I remember was that the work began poem by poem, headed in no particular direction, but then aligned arbitrarily, and consciously marched off to a satisfying conclusion.
Kev: Did you research for the backdrop of your story or any other part of it?
Steve: In order to validate to the poems and story, I did research, especially after the poems began to form a united work. I googled, read online, and bought hundreds of books about ranching, farming, managing employees, taking care of livestock, names of local fauna and flora.
Kev: What challenges did this particular work pose for you?
Steve: Time, mostly. Long hours of writing and editing after long days of running a ranch/farm. Then there was the learning how to smile when dealing with dishonest people.
Kev: What methods are you using to promote this work?
Steve: I am a writer and a reader. Usually humble, in fact I am the most humble person I know. Seriously, I am not by nature a bragger, a grandstander, or a show-off. So, promoting is something I never did before or even tried to do. I am still new at it (even after months of execution) and still learning. The people at Finishing Line Press provided me with some reading material to learn how to promote. Promoting apparently is the “now” way for writers to publish and sell books. Whereas, in the past, publishing houses did most of the promoting and selling and distributing, now most publishing houses want the writer to do the legwork and phone calling. There are lots of ways to go about promoting. In my case, I just e-mailed bookstores, alma-matters, libraries, family, and friends. I set up a book tour. I also opened Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts to post notices about the progress of the book’s publication, its release, the book tour, blurbs and reviews. So, readers, if you read something on-line from a writer that rings like shame-faced self-promotion, it’s just a necessary survival tactic, an evolutionary result.
Kev: Do you have any advice for new authors?
Steve: Just keep at it. Never give up. Always think of yourself as a writer (even if other people do not). Spend as much time submitting for publication and promoting your work as you do writing.
Stephen Page is from Detroit, Michigan. He is the author of The Timbre of Sand, Still Dandelions, and A Ranch Bordering the Salty River. He holds a BA from Columbia University and an MFA from Bennington College. His critical essays have appeared regularly in the Buenos Aires Herald, Gently Read Literature, and Fox Chase Review. He is the recipient of The Jess Cloud Memorial Prize, a Writer-in-Residence from the Montana Artists Refuge, a Full Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center, an Imagination Grant from Cleveland State University, and an Arvon Foundation Ltd. Grant. He currently lives in Argentina where he teaches World literature.
Bio back cover of book: Stephen Page was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, where he worked in factories, die-maker tool rooms, and steel-cutting shops—all the while longing for a vocation associated with nature. He now lives in Argentina where he had the opportunity to learn how to ranch and farm.
Bio inside book: Stephen Page is part Shawnee and part Apache. His other books of poetry include The Timbre of Sand(1999) and Still Dandelions (2004). He graduated from Palomar College, Columbia University (with honors), and Bennington College. He received a Jess Cloud Memorial Prize for Poetry, a Writer-in-Residence with stipend from the Montana Artists Refuge, a full Writer Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center, an Imagination Grant from Cleveland State University, and an Arvon Foundation Ltd. Grant. His book reviews are published regularly in the Buenos Aires Herald and on Fox Chase Review. He also writes short stories, novels, screen plays. He has taught literature, ESL, and film studies. He loves family, spontaneous road trips, and throwing his cellphone into a large body of water.