Interview with Kenneth Mugi
With a Canadian accent and Japan running through his blood, Kenneth is one of our published Sci-Fi writers. Kenneth has already stomped a footprint in the muddy world of writing with his published novels – He was a hero, he shouldn’t have died and App Fail.
His latest release is Flickering Lives—a short story about Emra, a dimension jumper searching for her brother, Mal—in the anthology, 18. I am fortunate enough to know Kenneth personally and have pulled a few strings to get him to talk a little about his writing. So let’s see what he has to say.
Allan Walsh: Where did you get the inspiration to write your story – Flickering Lives, and is there a deeper meaning behind your prose?
Kenneth Mugi: In my day job, I work with at-risk adults in the education sector so I’m constantly navigating trigger words or phrases that can set off a traumatic memory. The idea of taking a cultural touchstone—18—that traditionally represents coming of age, fighting against the system, and turning it into something darker, terrifying in its own right, interested me.
The opening sequence is, in some ways, a statement about privilege. The girl, Danika, knows eighteen is a forbidden word but she assumes her parents would never hire ‘those’ kind of folk. Due to this, she uses the phrase in front of a bodyguard who has the condition and ends up dying because of her actions.
Unfortunately, the real-life counter part of this—people from privileged backgrounds using words and phrases irresponsibly and then getting upset when their actions lead to negative outcomes—occurs way too much. There’s an interesting debate about who’s to blame in these situations. Is it the verbal assault that’s the initial attack or the physical violence? The more I read up about at-risk behaviours and see them in my classes, the less certain I am that I have any comprehensive answer. Instead, these issues get explored in my writing as I think through what all this says about the world and our social preconceptions.
Allan Walsh: The ‘world’ that your story is set in seems to be well established and quite complex, do you have any plans on bringing more characters to life within this universe?
Kenneth Mugi: I could probably spend the rest of my life writing in the Flickering Lives’ universe if I didn’t get restless and enjoy world creation so much.
One of my current projects, She Lit Up the World Like Silver, is set in Sora (the universe the short story is located in). It’s a tale about a woman who’s cursed and blessed with a supernatural sister and a childhood love. The first draft was completed back in 2012, but it ended up being a complete mess and the tone was wildly inconsistent.
I’ve been re-writing it here and there over the past year and a half, but unfortunately it still requires a significant amount of work before it can even be shown to beta-readers.
So, yes, there will be more stories set in Sora. If I’m lucky, I might be able to produce a first-first-first draft of the new tale by the end of 2014, but I wouldn’t bet your pearls or favourite hat on it.
Allan Walsh: Let’s get down to business. What other works do you have in the pipeline that your readers can look forward to?
Kenneth Mugi: Unfortunately, for my writing, I’m currently in the process of moving to another country so my longer works have slid down the priority queue. However, I’m currently working on writing short stories for my website, noshovelshere.com, and creating some episodic content for a long-running series.
My writing group responded really well to a short story of mine that was a little (a lot) off-kilter and after one false start in doing something with it, I’ve come back to the characters and their world. I’m hoping to have a new story up each week and to create several 13-episode series over the course of the year.
I have no idea if there’s a demand for a violent, wise-cracking group of four adventurers who enjoy sex as much as normal people, but I’m looking forward to finding out.
Allan Walsh: Do you think your love of all things Japanese has influenced your writing?
Kenneth Mugi: That’s such a big question to unpack. Japan and Japanese culture have definitely impacted on my views of the world, but whether or not it affected my style of writing, what I write about, the way the characters interact, or all of them, I can’t say.
I love the cool, indifferent protagonists Japan uses—Spike and Yuki Nagato, as examples—but my characters can’t be quiet for a second. They banter, mock and ridicule everyone as they go about emoting and slashing their way to victory. As all writers do, I’ve looked at the contradiction between what I write versus what I like, and wondered why that is. Am I rebelling? Am I afraid that I’ll fail in creating what I hold dear?
The creative process is so strange and takes you down so many twisted rabbit holes, it’s difficult to know what pushed you into composing that morbid piece about corpses at 3:00am.
In saying that, being married to someone from a different culture has helped me become a better human and writer. I believe (though I could be wrong), that my characters are deeper and more nuanced than when I used to compile them from my adolescent-fever dreams. I think a lot more about the long-term impacts of the myths I write now, and if they’re building a world I’d want my (potentially) future children to live in or not.
Allan Walsh: Has Vision Writers’ Group helped you along your writing journey and if so how?
Kenneth Mugi: Vision Writers has been invaluable as an experience for me. I’ve been diagnosed with minor social anxiety and I’m not super confident in my skills at the best of times, so I avoided writing groups because I didn’t think we’d gel well together.
Fortunately, our President—Belinda Hamilton—used her powers of persuasion and talked me into it. The group was so welcoming and passionate about their craft that it was impossible not to enjoy the experience. They found some flaws in my writing that I’m working on, and made me brush up on my grammar knowledge. All of which, I believe, has benefitted the end readers of my works.
It was also exciting meeting the future generation of speculative fiction writers and I’m hoping to continue to be friends with many of them for a long time.
Allan Walsh: And last question for the day, what are your 5 top movies of all time?
Kenneth Mugi: Right now? I’d have to go with Lost in Translation, Ronin, Stranger Than Fiction, Batman Begins, and The Big Sleep.
Allan Walsh: Well. It’s been great talking to you Kenneth, thanks for your time and I wish you all the best with your future.
Kenneth’s story Flickering Lives, is available now in the recently released anthology – 18, which can be found here. If you want to find out more about Kenneth and his work, check out his website noshovelshere.com.