Featured Interview With Kirby Michael Wright
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii and attended Punahou School. I once arm-wrestled Barrack Obama for a cigarette. I received A BA in English Lit from the University of California, San Diego. My MFA in Creative Writing is from San Francisco State University. I currently live in Southern California but will be returning to Hawaii soon for book signings in Waikiki and in downtown Honolulu. Believe it or not, I avoid signing in bookstores. Why? Because they take a percentage of sales. I go to alternative signing locations, ones that don’t charge and that are more fun than stodgy bookstores.
I have written thirteen books to date in various genres, including flash (micro stories), poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. I have been published in over three-hundred university literary journals, including Harpur Palate, 580 Split, Reed Magazine, Blue Mesa Review, Artful Dodge, Moon City Review, Hawai’i Review, Honolulu Weekly, Hawai’i Pacific Review, and SDSU’s Pacific Review. I also write plays and screenplays. I won the 2018 Las Vegas Screenplay Contest and a stage play set in the Deep South took Third Place at the 2018 Caanes Screenplay Contest. Sometimes I harvest material from my stories when crafting plays such as HOUDINI, which was performed at the Actors Alliance Festival in San Diego. Cross-pollination is a great way to get a lot of material out there fast. My first book of poetry took First Place at the San Diego Book Awards.
Pets? Yes, I have a trio of cats. All three are Senior Citizens and sleep most of the day, except when it’s meal time. I feed them four squares a day and never leave kibble out in a bowl. Why? Marilyn Monroe uses food to calm her nervous nature and, if I did leave the kibble out, she’d weigh over 20 pounds in no time.
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
I think I officially started writing when I was nine and crafted a Moloka’i story for my mother, who was 5,000 miles away in Boston. It amazed me that I could seal that story in an envelope, mail it, and that my mother would get it a week or so later.
I developed a fascination for books in elementary school when my father brought home a Tom Swift Adventures book and I gobbled it up. Naturally, I had to read every Tom Swift book and was always on the lookout for the latest in the series.
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
Hemingway, Plath, Eliot, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and Joyce.
My new favorite genre is Creative Nonfiction. Why? The characters are usually real people and not imagined by the author. Some fiction writers write historical novels but adding fact through history does not make the characters real.
Tell us a little about your latest book?
My latest is THE QUEEN OF MOLOKA’I. This book was inspired by Julia Wright, my paternal grandmother. Julia was one of six children that grew up in Palolo Valley. Julia was a party girl in Waikiki. She made big mistakes in love, especially after meeting a blond Englishman at the Moana Hotel. He left her hapai (pregnant) after promising he’d send for her once he got settled in San Francisco. Julia never heard from the Englishman again and gave birth to my father the first day of world peace. Then she met a Portuguese sea merchant at the Young Hotel downtown and soon she was hapai again. Julia was forced to raise both sons in her mother’s tiny rental in Kaimuki. Her third love interest was Chipper, a decorated war vet. Chipper asked her to accompany him to the Molokai Ranch, where he’d secured a job as a paniolo (cowboy). Julia said she would. Chipper told her she couldn’t bring her sons along until she proved she could handle the rural lifestyle. She was caught between the fear of becoming an old maid raising two half-brothers or the possibility of marrying her teenage crush.
Four chapters from THE QUEEN OF MOLOKA’I manuscript were published online during the writing process. These acceptances gave me momentum. I have found that, by submitting chapters as stand-alone stories, you soon find out if your chapters are worthwhile. My advice to any wannabe writer is to get his or her work published online in the pages of respected magazines. Once my chapters were online, I hunkered down and re-edited them to make them even stronger. I also think it’s important for people to get down the stories of their elders before they pass. Just remember to get down both sides of the coin—the good and the bad.
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