AuThursday – Robert Yehling

Robert YehlingPlease welcome author Robert Yehling to the Clog Blog, so Robert, where are you from?
I am from Carlsbad, California. Grew up on the beach, and after being out of state for 25 years, am living on the beach less than five miles from where I grew up.

Q: How long have you been writing, and editing?
I began writing stories when I was six. At 16, I was hired as a sportswriter by The Blade Tribune, a North San Diego County daily newspaper. I spent 25 years as a newspaper and magazine writers and editor, and have been a book author and editor for the past 12 years. When I started in the newspaper business, and because I was already a versatile writer, the editors moved me around; I wrote sports, human interest stories, lifestyle pieces, music and book reviews, and news stories. It goes right to today, in which I’m a published narrative non-fiction writer, poet, essayist, journalist and soon, a novelist.

Q: How do balance the two? Does your editing voice get in the way of your creative writing?
I don’t have any conflict between voices at all. I believe good editors should always work within the author’s voice, rather than interjecting their own. When it comes to fiction, they should be working within the characters’ voices. While it’s sometimes necessary to rearrange narrative, expand or contract characters or tighten the writing, editing should never impact the author’s voice.
As for the balance, I usually get up early, write for several hours, take a break, and then move into editing. My right brain fires best in the morning, my left brain in the afternoon. It works pretty well!

Q: Do you have a specific writing style?
Yes. I’m lyrical and driven to detail. I’ve written five poetry collections, and edit a literary anthology. Plus, I have a natural, well-tuned ear for both music and the unique characteristics of people’s spoken and singing voices, so I write character-driven fiction that catches the inner ear while being visually and sensually appealing (meaning, the five senses, though it can be sensual!). The more we move into the senses, and away from what we think, the better the narrative experience for readers. As for the detail work, I’m a trained journalist, so that always comes into play. Put it all together, and I like to think my style is enriching and entertaining at the same time.

Q: What books have most influenced your life most?
Ah, the question that drives every author crazy, because we all know we’re going to miss a title or two! The books that have influenced me would be Island of the Blue Dolphins, when I was a kid; and then Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (by Annie Dillard), Turtle Island (by Gary Snyder), The Right Stuff (by Tom Wolfe), I Never Played the Game (by Howard Cosell), The Crossing Point (by M.C. Richards), Hanta Yo (by Ruth Beebe Hill), For Whom the Bell Tolls (by Ernest Hemingway), The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter (by Carson McCullers), and anything by the late L.A. Times sports columnist Jim Murray.

Q: What book are you reading now?
Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, Fobbit by David Abrams, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter and The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich. I cross-read several titles at once, so always have more than one going at the same time.

Q: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Yes. One new favorite is Tom Ong, who has written a fabulous trilogy of crime novels around his protagonist, Kate Conway; the latest is called The Fashionista Murders. Tom is a retired advertising exec, so like me, taking a journalism-media background into fiction. The other is David Abrams, whose debut novel, Fobbit, is a New York Times bestseller. He mixes the tragedy of war with its sardonic humor in a riveting way; when I read Fobbit, I thought what would happen if Hogan’s Heroes met Matterhorn. I also love Unbridled, a deeply honest, humorous, at times sad but liberating memoir by Barbara McNally.

Q: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
My favorite poet is Pulitzer Prize winner Gary Snyder, who was one of the big-name Beat writers in the ‘50s and went on to write some of the most important material about our relationship to nature since John Muir. He’s in his 80s, but still as sharp as ever. We became friends when I lived next door to him in Northern California, where I taught college. My favorite prose writer is a three-way toss-up between the late John Gardner, Jim Harrison and Joyce Carol Oates. In all cases, their ability to create deep accounts of the human condition, mixing humor with tragedy, pathos with redemption, and have memorable characters continues to amaze me.

Q: What are your current projects?
I’m doing final polish work on my novel, Voices, which will be published in the winter. It’s about a rock music legend who goes back on the road, brings his daughter to sing harmony vocals – and she becomes a star. Also, in the course of it, his long-lost older daughter surfaces. A father-daughter-daughter relationship story set to the backdrop of a rock tour. I’m also writing Just Add Water, the biography of surf star Clay Marzo, who has Asperger’s syndrome; and helping Stevie Salas with his memoir, When We Were The Boys. Stevie is the music advisor to the Smithsonian Institution; in the late ‘80s, he went from being a backyard party musician to Rod Stewart’s lead guitarist in three years – an amazing leap.

Q: Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?
My website is http://www.wordjourneys.com, and my blog sites are bobyehling.wordpress.com and 366writing.wordpress.com.

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