Wisconsin author Kris Radish has had an interesting career. While working as a journalist, she wrote her first book, a true crime book about Lawrencia Bembenek. But it wasn't long before her fiction was published and she's got a new novel out in paperback.
The premise of "Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral" -- Annie has died and it falls to her friends to carry out her unusual last wishes for a traveling funeral. This may remind some of Graham Swift's wonderful "Last Orders," but Radish has a voice of her own and a knack for some thoroughly engaging characters and a great down-to-earth storytelling voice.
While she's on the road promoting the book at shops around the country, we asked her about being an author in Wisconsin.
OMC: We know you're from Wisconsin, but do you think Wisconsin informs your work in any way?
KR: Living, working and writing in Wisconsin has an influence on me in ways that flow into my work. But I also think that there are so many common denominators in the women I write about that they could be from anywhere and emotional foundations are fairly universal as well. But surely the people I live with, interact with, shop with, laugh with -- here in Wisconsin -- they inform me all of the time and thus my work.
OMC: Do you think Wisconsin is a fertile place for novelists?
KR: In some ways yes and in others not so much. I think if you are born with a passion for words and creativity you can be anywhere. Creating novels is a very personal affair and the inspiration for the work does come from many places including the landscape -- both physical and emotional -- of Wisconsin. Fertility is often a personal thing (this is a good spot to laugh) and for me the answer would be yes -- I'm pretty fertile these days even if I am in the middle of menopause. But there are limited media outlets here once you pass the "Here is the book" phase survival in the literary world is not just about putting the words into the computer.
OMC: You've had kind of a diverse career as an author with a Bambi bio and a book about birth order, in addition to your novels. How do these projects come into focus for you? Or are you always juggling a couple things?
KR: I was born with a journalists heart -- which, I admit is a scary place -- but I also think my years of work as a journalist have helped lead me to the novelists bed. I have had tremendous life experiences and they flow into my work and I think give them a certain richness and a sense of reality because of the non-fiction portion of my soul. But I do juggle and it's often hard on my hands and neck muscles. I do have to say that my heart and soul and all my juggling hands seem to have the face of a novelist now and I feel fine with that even as I continue to do some non-fiction work.
OMC: We know you're a warrior woman, but are your characters warrior women, too? What about Annie Freeman's friends?
KR: All women are warriors but some of us run just a bit faster and make more noise. Annie's friends are warriors who would do anything for her and Annie was remarkable because of her friends as well. I see a warrior as a woman who lives - who celebrates - who is fabulous because she knows her own heart and soul and will not let anyone or anything put a blanket over her passions.
OMC: We hear you're working on a new novel called "The Sunday List of Dreams." What can you tell us about it?
KR: Spicy, sexy, fun, poignant. A woman just past mid-life thinks she has it all figured out and is ready to address her own dreams when she discovers that her estranged daughter is running the largest sex toy store in Manhattan. The research has been hell but I am hanging on.
Kris Radish reads at Schwartz Bookshop in Mequon on Thurs., Feb. 16 and at the Bay View location on Feb. 21.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.