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Interview with poet Mishka Zakharin

Few authors can entertain, make you laugh, evoke emotion, (possibly) offend you…and make you think –let alone all of the above. Mishka Zakharin is one such author.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a poetry buff, you are sure to find something in his writings that will hold your interest and keep you turning the pages.
 
His latest release, ‘The Spleen of Fiery Dragons’, is no exception. The book has been touted as everything fromreminiscent of Shakespeare” to “funny, sad, scary, and just plain strange”.
 
Zakharin says that while writing poetry was not a childhood ambition, looking back he recognizes his (budding) propensity when recalling a first grade poem: “I love farms and I love things on farms and the cows. I love the cows. I love a good cow. The cow’s name is Mousey and she’s my cow and I will love my cow for a long time.”
 
Dana G Did you have any other aspirations as a child?
Mishka Z I wanted to be an actor… something kind of between Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood… which is nothing like me; I’d be more like something between Steve Martin and Groucho Marx.
DG Do you have any (published) writings that aren’t poetry?
MZ Yes, I have three (and a half) anthologies of short fiction:
  • Of Gilded Hearts and Girded Loins
  • The Mishkan Book of the Dead
  • Mishka Shakespeare, The Complete Works
DG If you weren’t a writer, what other passion would you pursue?
MZ Uhmm…therapy? I always feel much more sane when I’m writing… even if what I’m writing may not seem sane to the reader…
DG What is it (mostly) that inspires your poetry?
MZ Words. Sometimes I’ll just collect neat words that I run across in my reading, and then I’ll try to make them mine—take whatever it is I’m thinking and feeling and write something from this random collection of words… (such as with “Melville’s Spectre” and “The Road to Taganrog”). I don’t think many people stop to consider what an amazing thing language is. We can read the writings of people who have been dead for hundreds and thousands of years, and know precisely what they were thinking at the moment they wrote it. Words allow us to transcend time and space. Without language, we’d still just be monkeys (though, I suppose, I can see the merit in that as well…).
DG What inspires YOU the most (as a person)?
MZ Honestly? A good ego-stroking!…though it has to be sincere. (I suppose I could have said “positive feedback for a job well-done”… but what the heck…)
DG Do you ever “edit” yourself? Meaning “edit” what you actually write down out of fear that someone will take offense or that your writing won’t be accepted commercially?
MZ I have edited things so as not to give offense personally, but several years ago I attempted to publish a sort of a novel in verse entitled ‘Kriego Silencieux’ (“Silent Screams”), and the publisher said it was a bit too “pornographic”. I didn’t agree. They asked if I wanted to re-work the parts they especially had a problem with, and I said “No”. I preferred to keep the work intact rather than to have it be published in an altered state. It depends on what I’m writing; some things are open to compromise—other things are exactly how I want them and that’s how they’re going to stay!
DG Where could someone meet the mysterious “Mishka”? Do you have any appearances scheduled in the near future?
MZ The vodka aisle at Piggly Wiggly?…
DG Do you offer autographed books to the long-distance buyer? Does it cost extra?
MZ I don’t mind autographing books—no extra charge. I’m not really comfortable with ‘personal messages’ when not acquainted with the person I am autographing a book for, but being asked to autograph a book at all is quite a compliment in itself.  
DG How can your adoring public (or those whose curiosity has now been piqued!) buy your books? Do you have a website?
MZ Well, as a matter of fact, I do just happen to have a new website—one of the first benefits of having hired a publicist. Voyeurs and poetry buffs alike can buy my books through my website, as well as Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and a few other sites, all of which may be accessed through the site www.mishkazakharin.com.
DG Is your website the best way to contact you—for stalkers and media alike?
MZ Yes, I prefer that to people showing up and knocking on my door (though that doesn’t apply if you’re a tall, leggy brunette—then stop on over!) The site includes a contact form, touring news, newsletter sign-up, etc.
DG Are all of your books done through the same publishing house? If not, who is your favorite publishing house and why?
MZ I’ve published through five different publishers. Xlibris and iUniverse seem to use inferior materials and really look amateurish. Booksurge just outright sucks—they’ll screw you blind and are just plain difficult to work with. Authorhouse puts out a good book, but they make you pay to keep it in print—or they used to. 
I’ve had the best luck with Infinity Publishing; they’re friendly and easy-going. If I have any issues or questions about anything, I know I’m not going to get a big run-around trying to get answers and they put out a quality book.
DG Does your (current) favorite publishing house usually handle the design of your book covers?
MZ Not necessarily, but I have occasionally used their help in designing covers. 

Parting is such sweet sorrow…
DG Do you have any parting words…sage advice…for the novice poet who wants to publish?
MZ Do it the hard way. Though self-publishing has a much better reputation than it used to and has become a respectable way to put out a book, my advice would be to go the traditional route. Start collecting those rejection slips! I wish I’d stuck with that direction, but (hopefully!) with the assistance of my new publicist, I can get the ball rolling, get my work into the hands of the people who will enjoy and appreciate it… I’ll keep you posted!
DG Do you have an agent? If not, why?
MZ Piers Anthony said, essentially, when you’re ready for an agent, they’ll come looking for you… I have a publicist rather than an agent. Marketing yourself is tough, and polishing your image as a writer shouldn’t be your job anyway. I am a writer. I only recently hired a publicist, but already I can tell you that it has motivated me—not only to write—but to take control and move forward in my writing career. 

Visit Zakharin's website to peruse his other works, see tour info and more...


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