In anticipation of the release of The Walnut Branch magazine Volume 1, we interviewed each featured artist to learn more about their artistic journeys, inspirations, and processes.
Today, we are featuring our interview with Chattanooga fiction writer, Paul Luikart.
Q: Can you share a bit about your artistic journey and what inspired you to pursue your chosen medium?
It sounds real dumb to say, but I guess I’ve always thought I was an artist, though thinking I’m an artist doesn’t make me an artist anymore than thinking I can fly makes me an airplane. I think my artistic journey is not one of discovering that I’m an artist, but one of traipsing through life and never not wondering, “How do I interpret this?” I thought I would pursue writing because, when I boil myself down to all my essential elements, writing is the only essential element left in the bottom of the pan.
Q: How do you approach the creative process? Are there specific rituals or methods you follow to bring your ideas to life?
I wish there were grand specific rituals. In some ways, just being alive and all the activities one must do so as not to not die (e.g. eating, sleeping, etc.) are all interruptions to the creative process that’s never ending and often exists sleeping, but never dormant, under all we’d call something like, “regular life.” Really, if there is something like a ritual, it’s as simple as opening my notebook to a blank page while holding a pen. That tends to catalyze just about everything. That can take place in a coffee shop, on the el, in my bedroom, at a funeral, in church, in the car at a red light, and on and on. In that sense, writing is super easy.
Q: Who or what are your major artistic influences? How have they shaped your work?
Nelson Algren, Raymond Carver, Cormac McCarthy, Lydia Davis, Ernest Hemingway, Denis Johnson, James Joyce, Flannery O’Connor, Annie Proulx, Tom Waits. A lot of others. They all remind me, each in their own ways, that writing is worth doing. I’m influenced by each of them in the writerly ways of: style, voice, dialogue especially and in the human ways of: compassion and a sense of the eternal.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from your art? Is there a particular message or emotion you aim to convey?
Huh. I don’t know. I don’t think there is any particular message or emotion I want readers to take away. At least, when I start writing, and in the midst of it, I’m working and reworking which produces a variety of emotions and reflections in me. So, in that case, I guess I would say that I want readers to have a true emotional response. That’ll be shaded and colored for each reader by his/he own experiences, perceptions, etc. Never the exact same experience for any two readers or even for one reader who looks at the piece twice. I hope for authentic experiences and strive to create them. That’s the succinct way to say it.
Q: Where do you see your artistic journey taking you in the future? Are there specific goals or projects you aspire to undertake in 2024?
I have a new book coming out in 2024, a short story collection called, “The Realm of the Dog.” So, I guess that’s a project to which I previously aspired, though now I must aspire to hoping people read it. I’m writing a novel and short stories as they arise in my brain and, pretty regularly, essays too. Also, jokes. I write down a lot of jokes.
Walnut Street Publishing is a Chattanooga-based independent publisher that specializes in amplifying stories from new and experienced authors and artists. We build a bridge for authors and artists to their audience around the world. We do this by creating avenues for talented individuals to publish their work. We believe in working together to help bring stories to life. We specialize in helping new authors find their voice and assist them in the publishing process while also being a solution to experienced authors who want a more personal publisher.