Getting to know you ♫♪♫♪ Getting to know all about you ♫♪♫♪
I’m anxious to learn about my collaborators in the soon-to-be-released anthology. Let’s start with the Mastermind.
Frank Sikora was intimidating and focused. That was my impression. And even more daunting, his genre differed greatly from anything I’d written. After numerous emails, humour emerged from that intensity. I’d like to know more about him. Here goes:
P: According to Google, there are a zillion Frank Sikoras and a million of them are authors. That might be an exaggeration, but for the sake of idle curiosity, are you related to any of the authors?
F: I don’t think so. Here’s a mostly true story: I do have a hand-me-down name. My father’s name is Frank, and so is my grandfather’s and my great-grandfather’s. Because our middle initials are different, I can’t officially go by Frank the Fourth. When I was young, I tried to convince my parents to call me by my middle name, Thomas, but they refused. I hate my name, but my wife loves it. She loves old-world, just-off-the-boat, welcome-to-Ellis Island names. She wants to be known as Maude even though her name is Holly. The kids I coach don’t call me Coach Frank or Coach Sikora. They just call me Frank. Sigh.
P: Do you keep a personal journal? If so, do you think this is an important exercise or habit for writers?
F: I keep multiple task journals, mostly because of my poor memory and my obsession with being organized and timely. I have three jobs. For each job (substitute teacher, graphic artist and track coach), I keep a daily notebook of what I need to accomplish that day. Otherwise, I would forget everything. In another notebook, I keep ideas for stories or personal comments. Unfortunately all my note-taking efforts go for naught. My handwriting is so bad that I can barely read my scribbles. My typing is not much better. I love irony.
When it comes to writing, I consider myself a lifelong student and not qualified to give advice. If a student insists on one piece of writing advice, I offer what those much more talented than I suggest: 1. Read everything, including classics, genre, pulp, nonfiction, satire and Russian (especially Tolstoy’s short stories). This is why our anthology is interesting—it’s composed of multiple genres and styles. 2. For every 1,000 words you write, read 20,000 or more.
P: You have four stories in the anthology. Intriguing stories, I might add. Why don’t you tell us about one of your works, like maybe Bozeman Before the Fire – just for instance – and, without giving away the story (I’d rather they buy the book), tell us what sparked the muse.
F: Side note: I think I write great titles. I have a personal rule: All my titles have to come from the story, lifted right out of the text. I use my notebook for the first few drafts (even though I can’t read most of it, which is fine). The early drafts are usually incoherent rants, half-baked scenes, and bits of dialog. I’m searching for an idea or a reason to hang out at McDonald’s for a few more minutes in the morning before work.
Back to the question regarding Bozeman: One of my favorite books is Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, which, among other themes and ideas, deals with the bombing of the German city Dresden during World War II and the morality of doing so when the city had no strategic military value. From this story and other readings, I have come to believe that morality is an evolving entity, a necessary adaptive component for survival, from an individual level to a societal level. The two main characters in this story, a young witch (yes, it’s a story with witches) and a warlock (an old man) deal with the consequences of individual decisions that govern the lives of many others. The young witch wants to destroy all that is old and corrupted in the world(s) she occupies. Naturally, the old man and his ilk have other plans. It’s a conflict of ideas, sexes and generations. I think it is also a love story (parental love); both characters are incredibly lonely, and both must give themselves completely and reluctantly to the causes each represent.
P: Would you describe writing as your passion and do you favour one genre over another?
F: I’m not a big fan of the word “passion.” To me, it implies an endeavor without reason—one that is purely emotional. If I must use that term, I would say I’m more passionate about reading. I want to write good stories, but I prefer reading them, which is why I am excited about this anthology. BUY THIS ANTHOLOGY!
I love speculative fiction, yet my second favorite story is Moby Dick. My favorite is Hyperion by Dan Simmons.
P: We’ve never met. How would you describe yourself so I’d recognize you in a restaurant.
F: If it’s a fast-food restaurant, I’m the guy who is complaining about the people in front of me who
Physically, I am as tall as Steve Nelson (look him up on Google), but he is thinner and handsomer (I mean he is really thin, fit and handsome). I am reasonably fit but with a lot more hair (gray). When young, we delivered pizzas together and ran together. I’m indirectly responsible for his children, but that is another almost true story.
P: If you could re-visit a year in your life, how old would you be and what is the purpose of this visit back in time? Actually, Frank, judging by your work, you might prefer a trip to the future, well beyond your years in this world. Well?
F: I would go back to the beginning of the eighth grade and prevent my brother’s death. I am haunted by my inability to prevent his accident and by the last words I said to him on the morning of his demise. He was truly gifted. He could sing beautifully and play multiple instruments. My brother was a deeply caring person, emotionally strong and filled with empathy. My wife has said that every story I have ever written has touched on his passing in one form or another, which I don’t necessarily want to agree with, but it is an idea that does feel truthful. If you read Bozeman Before the Fire, you may get that notion.
P: Work with me here, Frank. Picture yourself walking in the woods. You find a treasure. Describe that treasure for us.
F: It’s a time machine. See my last response.
P: Last question. What have you been bursting to say, but I just haven’t asked?
F: You mentioned before that I appear extremely serious, but I’m generally good-natured with the annoying habit of trying to be the funniest guy in the room. When I am in the classroom or coaching, I try to infuse the room with humor and joy.
P: I want you to know, Frank, that I deleted a few of my questions, as you have addressed them in a preface you wrote for the book. A preface that moved me and I know will tweak the hearts of all readers in bookland. So we’ll save that until we have a BUY ME link. J
Frank Sikora is a graphic artist, writer, substitute teacher, and track coach. He lives in Waterford, Wisconsin, with his wife, Holly, an English teacher. His work has been published online and in print in Canada and the United States, and every once in a while one of his flash fiction pieces will win an award, which his wife will acknowledge with a smile and a comment, such as, “It still needs a middle, Sweetheart.”