Links to novels:
Interview with Edward J. Rathke:
Matthew Toffolo: What is the general theme and tone of your novels?
Edward J. Rathke: Ha, not sure I’m the best suited to answer this questions since I’m the person who wrote them. Probably readers of the novels would have more to say about this than I would, but I’ll try to answer the best I can.
My novels aim for several different registers, which means they’re aiming at different tones at different times and are thematically complex, or contain several different themes.
To me, all my novels are about hope, even when things are at their darkest. Since my published novels contain a lot of darkness in them, including everything from suicide to the effects of imperialism, the hope is rarely on the surface, and is often more about personal forms of hope. Finding beauty in tragedy. Hope through despair and calamity. So the tone is generally dark and emotional, but ultimately hopeful and beautiful.
The themes really do range quite a bit, so I’ll break it down by title.
Ash Cinema: Death and love, creativity and convention.
Twilight of the Wolves: Imperialism, racism, war, pacifism, mythology, culture, civilization, choice, love, and what it means to be human.
Noir: A Love Story: Suicide, death, mythology, culture, culture, love, hope, perception, perspective, and how we define people and the world around us.
MT: Why should people buy your novels?
EJR: There’s certainly no reason why you should do anything I say, but I’ll try to pitch my novels the best I can!
Buy my novels if you want familiar genres taken in unconventional ways. Novels that are structurally complex and emotionally resonant. Novels with big concepts but grounded characters. If you’re looking for a fresh take on epic fantasy, Twilight of the Wolves may be just what you’ve been looking for. If you’re tired of the same old detective narrative, Noir: A Love Story may be exactly what you’ve always looked for.
If you like your books surreal, full of invented mythologies that question what it means to be human, to love, to die, then you may want to check out my novels.
If you’re looking for straightforward books that offer easy answers to the questions it brings up, you may want to avoid my books.
MT: How would you describe your novels in just two words?
EJR: Sentimental surrealism.
MT: What movie have you seen the most in your life?
EJR: In the Mood for Love and 2046 by Wong Kar Wai are the two movies I’ve seen the most. I list them together because I almost always watch them together. I used to watch them a few times a year. I’ve probably seen them about fifteen times and just keep coming back.
MT: Was being a novel writer something you’ve always dreamed of doing?
EJR: Not really dreamt of doing, but just always knew I would write novels. I didn’t really think about it. I still don’t even really think about it or use it as a way to identify myself, but I’ll likely keep doing it for the rest of my life.
MT: Do you have an all-time favorite novel? Have you read a novel more than once?
EJR: This is always a difficult question, yeah?
All time favorites would be Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky and Ledfeather by Stephen Graham Jones. I’ve read both of those four times.
But Crime and Punishment changed my life, and I mean that in a very direct and transformative way. I first read it as an assignment for class in high school. We were meant to read a few chapters a week for the following two months. I ended up reading it the first time within about two days. I couldn’t put it down, couldn’t stop crying into the pages, couldn’t stop underlining passages. My copy of that has probably 75% of the book underlined, which made it completely useless as a studyguide, but I think it showed how powerful this was for me. Right after I finished it, I went back to page one and read it again. I read it twice in that first week but have only read it twice more since then. I’m afraid of it, truthfully. Afraid it’ll break me down the way it did the first time. Break me down and reconstruct the way I see the world. Reconstruct the person I am and make me someone new, the way it did all those years ago.
MT: What motivates you to write?
EJR: It’s fun? That’s not a particularly interesting answer, I suppose, but I get great enjoyment from writing, from inventing new words, new ways to see familiar stories. That’s always been the reason for writing. But I guess it’s also how I make sense of the world.
MT: What artist would you love to have dinner with?
EJR: Wong Kar Wai or Terrence Malick, though I imagine talking to Terrence Malick wouldn’t be as interesting or fun as his films are. So probably Wong Kar Wai.
MT: Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
EJR: So many things! Politics is kind of an unfortunate addiction for me and so I find myself knee deep in political discussions pretty often, especially with regard to social justice, environmentalism, and imperialism. But the more enjoyable hobbies would be history, mythology, drawing, animation, film, beer, travel, teaching, dancing, singing, and knives.
MT: Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
EJR: Live loudly. Be kind. Seek experience. Listen to people. Find enjoyment in the world, in people. Talk to people. Ride the bus. Go to new countries. Talk to people from diverse backgrounds.
Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to http://www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.