Talking to Eric Kiefer
by Larry Lihosit (Honduras 1975-77)
Lihosit: Why write a novel about the Peace Corps instead of a memoir?
Kiefer: Memoir often tends to force a reader into certain prejudgments about what the book needs to be. Memoirs happened. The difference between a memoir and a novel is plot development and this book is about as far as I could push the line. There were experiences/settings/characters I wanted to portray that quite simply, didn’t happen. There’s something to be said about that holy connection between the real and the imagined. That’s the power and beauty of a novel, after all.
Lihosit: You have written non-fiction. Did you find fiction more difficult? Why?
Kiefer: I’ve always found that writing nonfiction is much more confining and claustrophobic, but I tend to sweat more when I write fiction. When I was working as a newspaper reporter, the stories were always laid out for me: story arc, characters, motivation, everything. In fiction, I need to create all of that stuff myself. For that reason, fiction will always be harder for me to write than nonfiction.
Lihosit: Before and even after starting this novel, did you search for any help? What kind and where?
Kiefer: One of my goals was to write a novel that anyone could understand, with themes that aimed at the souls of the people around me, not just the brains of intellectuals and fellow writers. So throughout the writing process for The Soft Exile, I got my best feedback from the family and friends around me. If they couldn’t understand the themes and feelings that I was trying to get across, I went back for another edit.
Lihosit: Do you have plans for another book? If not, why? If so, what kind?
Kiefer: I’m currently halfway through a creative nonfiction book that is sure to turn some heads. I’m also working on a fantasy/sci-fi piece that involves an adult-focused, R-rated retooling of some familiar mythological figures (unicorns, wizards, dragons and even El Chupacabra.
Lihosit: Anything you would like add?
Kiefer: People can keep up with my new projects, as well as see some cool videos and pictures about The Soft Exile, by following along on my social media pages (Facebook and Twitter), or on my website, www.thekiefer.com.
Lihosit: Thank you for your time, Eric.