‘I believe you can be anybody you want’, says Warren Stribling, the author of Sin and Zen

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It’s been a while since I have hosted an interview. Seems like ages now. But the wait was worth it. We got to interview someone who unique in his own way and his literature. Warren Stribling, the author of Sin and Zen

'I believe you can be anybody you want', says Warren Stribling, the author of Sin and Zen

Hi Warren

Welcome to our virtual tete a tete.

Will Strief- Do you have any personal experience with a similar person in real life?
Will is definitely a version of myself. How could he not be? I think every character that an author writes has a least a little of the writer in him or her, even if the author may not realize it, or want to do admit it. Will is similar to me in his thirst for knowledge and exploration and understanding. Yet, whereas I have been told my whole life I am an old man trapped in a young man’s body, Will is more ‘young’. He’s a bit more naive and selfish. I believe Will and I have very much the same soul, but the filters we apply to ourselves for the world to see make us a bit different in the end. Nonetheless, I can definitely say I have personal experience with someone like Will. Even when writing Will, I learned about myself. It was an enlightening and fun experience.
Yes, that’s true. Every character will have a part of the writer too. Mine too had. So, How did the struggles of an ex-serviceman come to you?
That one is easy. I was that man. I am an Iraq War veteran with the United States Air Force and an injured French Foreign Legion parachutist. When you are living those struggles, you don’t really see them as ‘I’m struggling because I’m adjusting to civilian life.’ You just think to yourself, ‘I’m really shitty at this life thing.’ Or ‘Everybody struggles like this.’ Or even if you start to see that the reason you are struggling is due to being a broken soldier, you still don’t want to accept it. ‘I won’t be another cliché. I’m better than this. I’m fine.’ Unfortunately, those traumas of war and living a very different lifestyle still have their sneaky ways of exploiting you through alcohol/drug abuse, trust issues in relationships, and not being able to accept the status quo. It’s a process to integrate into civilian life, especially if you joined the service immediately into adulthood as I did and then get out with nothing and no one to support you or guide you as you try to simply start a new life with your wings clipped, in my case, both literally and metaphorically.

'I believe you can be anybody you want', says Warren Stribling, the author of Sin and Zen

Oh that’s incredible. Salute you. As a soldier, did you have the dream of being a writer? Or Did it come naturally to you?

My first dream was to be a soldier. Then that upgraded to be special forces. It was somewhere after getting in trouble with the Air Force and then joining the Legion and getting injured in service that I realized my soldier days were over.
Writing has always come naturally to me, as something I enjoy, and as a form of self-therapy. It has always made me feel better about whatever I was feeling or thinking and then, it gave me perspective on whatever that was.
Using that to possibly help others process their own feelings and thoughts started to feel like a calling then.
I wrote a novella for my mother for Mother’s Day when I was in high school and she has since told me to be a novelist. I obviously had other dreams of being a superhero in the military. A life I got to live for some time, falling from the sky and saving the world and whatnot, but after my injury and months of laying in a hospital bed with no chance of ever being in a combat company again, I told myself, ‘I didn’t join the infamous French Foreign Legion to drive a bus or push papers.’ Months in a hospital bed also left me lots of time to think. Something I wasn’t used to as a soldier. Whereas I used my body before, I knew I had to now use my mind if I was going to continue to exist in this world.
So, I got out and taught English for a while to pay the bills. Yet, that didn’t feel quite right either. It felt pretty good. I enjoyed watching people learn. But… no. It wasn’t a calling.
After finishing the first novel, I knew to my true role in this play of life.

Do you have any writing routines?

No. Not really. I mostly go with the flow.
A typical day for me is a mix of being a house-husband and being a writer.
My wife owns her own business and usually stays pretty occupied with that. I try to maintain the house, and when I have those hours in the day when the dogs are sleeping and the dishes are done, I write.
Sometimes I have a freelance job to do. Sometimes I write for my own blog. Sometimes I write a short story for a competition. Lately, I’ve been focused on my second novel.
From time to time, I’ll focus purely on marketing what I do have. It’s a mix of things, but it all revolves around my family and the writing.
Writing is my art, it’s my way of expressing my soul, but my family is my heart. If my heart isn’t in a good place, the writing suffers. Find a place to call home, a place you feel comfortable. Maybe that place is a spot on the map, maybe it’s a culture or set of traditions.
I’ve traveled and learned that place isn’t those things for me. I may like them and find some comfort in them, but home for me is in my wife’s eyes and swinging on the wagging tails of our dogs.
So, one has to learn to balance and appreciate both of these things I think. Find your place in this world and then get to work. Writing isn’t monkey work or something that can be done by formulas or standard operating procedures. It’s a really involved process that requires a lot of creative thinking, and if you can find the right place and support to do that, you’ll be better for it.
Beyond that, coffee, cigarettes, and loud classical music in my ears while imagining my keyboard is a piano is pretty much my method and madness for writing.

That’s indeed a different way of inciting your imagination. Beyond imagination, tell us about you

Ewww… these are normally the questions people love to answer, and I just don’t enjoy at all. But I’ll give it a try:
I’m a bit of a pain in the ass. I have my moments where I’m clever. I can be childish. I can be fun. I can be angry or even violent. I like my solitude, but I also enjoy making people laugh. I’m definitely more of a dog-person than a people-person, but I find the most rewarding connections can be made with the fellow man if you have the patience and compassion for it.

I believe you can be anybody you want and you are never under any obligation to be the same person you were yesterday.

That doesn’t mean one can escape who they were, but they can use it, both good and bad, as a foundation to add more to their lives. I’m not so great at living by expectations or the rules of society. I do believe in having morals and codes to guide oneself, but even those should be reexamined as we walk along this journey of life. Beyond that, however damaged or magical I may prove to be at times, I do try to be the best I can be.
This is all pretty vague. I usually try to avoid these questions in both my personal life and professional life. Yet here I tried. I hope it gives a bit of a glimpse into who I am.
Haha that’s the first time I’m getting a self introduction of this sort. Interesting though and dignified too.

Sin and Zen has depicted the carnal sequences with the same dignity. Was that a conscious effort on your end?

I’m glad you find the carnality of my writing done with dignity. It was not done in conscious effort.

I do feel that even the dirty and animalistic parts of being human are dignified though and should be explored.

Not simply ignored or painted over in flowery colors. We, as humans, are both ugly and beautiful. I believe both deserve to be recognized and respected. If I painted the carnality of human nature with some dignity, then it was done from a subconscious level. I’m glad you see that. Thank you.

Would you categorise your book as an erotica, psychological fiction or contemporary fiction?

I definitely don’t see my novel as erotica. Erotica for me is just writing sex for the joy or profit of sex. I almost didn’t even want to make the book sexual, but sex is such an integral and major part of our lives. How could I possibly write about love and finding oneself, without showing the messiness that sex brings to both? Did I enjoy writing a sexy scene or two? Sure, why not? Sex is pleasurable. Sex is also the closest we can get to connecting to another human and seeing who they really are. As a species, sex is obviously a part of who we are on a survival level, but I believe it is also something that helps or destroys us in a spiritual way.
Is it the only way? Of course not. My second book is not nearly as lustful and sexually charged as the first one. In fact, there is only one sex scene in the sequel. And it was written more to connect Will to his past and the first book. To show his growth from who he was to who he has become. Also, ‘Sin and Zen’ was about romantic love – eros, of love versus lust. ‘Anger and Hope’ is philia – family love. Now, we may not like to think about it, but all of us in existence today are here doing what we do because we were once a glow in our fathers’ eyes that our mothers just couldn’t refuse. Am I going to write that sex scene? Hell no. Still, I’m not in denial about the erotic nature of our existence.
Coming full circle here, I don’t write the erotic parts of the novel for the sake of enjoyment or profit. If I had to classify myself, I would call my writing Transgressive Fiction. It’s a pretty small niche though, too small even for Amazon to make a category for it. So, I throw it under Psychological Fiction and Dark Humor. I would also accept the idea of Literary Fiction and Contemporary Fiction, but those are a bit broad and can take almost anything that isn’t fantasy or science-fiction.
That’s most important. Not writing it for the sake of enjoyment and profit. It showed too.

Are you working on your next book?

I am. I am doing the final edits now. I will have it up for presale this week and the release will be July 24th. Exactly one year after the publication of my first novel. Anger and Hope will continue to watch Will evolve and grow as we all do. This time not by chasing eros or climbing mountains or meditating in Bodh Gaya, but as the prodigal son looking to understand his roots and looking for a connection of philia. There will still, of course, be lots of traveling along the way, this time across the continental United States.

How can the readers reach you?

You can find me in most major places in the digital world. I won’t tell you where I’m living physically. That’s weird. But online, I am on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Amazon, Medium, and a few other places. My handle is the same for all: @SWStribling. I also have a website: www.wstribling.com

That was an awesome piece of interview from Warren Stribling. His perspectives were different and thought-provoking. You can read My review of SIN AND ZEN

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