Expat writer in Spain: KJ Kron
American expat author KJ Kron talks about life as an expat writer, and what led him to write a book about which country is better - US or Spain?
Name: KJ Kron
Country of residence: Spain for about 10 weeks a year
Reason for moving to new country of residence: My wife is Spanish, her family lives here, and she wants our kids to know her family.
Title(s) of book(s): No Comprendo Spain, If Jesus was Alive Today
Why did you start writing?
My wife always tells me that Spain is so much better than the US, and that there are more people in the streets, the people are nicer, the styles are better, and the food tastes better. That didn't sit so well with me.
On the other side, a friend of mine asked my wife when the rest of her family is moving over here (the USA). Of course that didn't sit well with my wife, who would much rather live in Spain year round.
The truth is that whichever country you live in, you are going to assume it's the best. That's why I tried to write an impartial book taking points of view from both sides to see which is better.
What do you write about?
I'm compared every aspect of life in Spain to life in the US. From serious topics such as which country has a better educational system and environmental practices, to less serious topics such as which country has better curse words and better sports.
What do you like most about writing?
Freedom. I can write anywhere. My wife is visiting her family and I'm on the sofa scribbling notes and typing up chapters.
What aspects about being a writer do you find difficult?
Mostly the money. I make about EUR 20 a month on my writing; I need to make about 100 times that amount just to scrape by. I saw an article ranking journalism as the worst paying job you can get with a college degree. I also read that the average writer makes less than a teacher, so I guess I'm not quitting my teaching job yet.
Also, things change. I wrote in my book that even though the economy stinks in Spain, it's hard to notice. That was last year. This year the change is more noticeable and if it keeps up it could get much worse.
How has living abroad influenced your work as a writer?
I spend all my summers and winter breaks here (in Spain), basically two months a year, or all my free time for the past 8 or 9 years. Before that, I wrote a novel questioning religion. People tell me that my writing now is more accessible, so I'd probably be writing about boring topics that only appeal to a small minority of people, such as the sequel to what would Jesus be like if he was alive today?
Are writing groups/courses easy to find in the country you live in?
I've found a lot of people online in places like authonomy.com and slushpilereader.com (before it went out of business). People there are curious and want to talk. I've been invited to meet many English-speaking writers in Spain, but since my Spanish isn't perfect, I don't feel like I'm ready to explore writing groups or courses in Spanish.
Which writers have inspired you the most?
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris made me laugh and laugh. A couple of years ago I re-read it and thought, wow, I could write something like this. Only as a straight married man with a young child (my wife was pregnant at the time, so if I write more, it might be as a father of two). I only hope to be a tenth as funny. Then it would still be very entertaining.
What hurdles, if any, have you encountered on your path to becoming a published writer?
I've encountered tons of obstacles trying to get published in the past. Right now it's easier than ever to be a published writer. And it's also harder than ever to stand out amongst the boatloads of books being published.
How do you deal with rejection or harsh comments?
Recently I read a positive review of my book, but the reviewer only gave me two stars. Two stinking stars? That should have gotten a negative review. Honestly, I want to respond and tell many of the reviewers they missed the point. Or perhaps they are right and I feel a little glum. But to respond to any comments seems a little unprofessional.
What advice would you give to budding writers?
Read about how to write. There are a lot of good books out there on writing, and some that are not so good. I found myself nodding in agreement when I read them and occasionally learning important nuggets. Don't be too proud. Too many people think their writing is great and avoid criticism. Join writing groups. Revise. Put your writing on online websites like authonomy. And don't expect to make a million.
Would you like to add anything that we haven't addressed in the questionnaire?
In September I'm going to start my 18th year of teaching. I never thought I'd teach this long because I was going to make enough as a writer to quit. I might take two years off soon. My wife's parents are getting old and we have enough squirrelled away to afford it. It will be nice because I will be able to write more, but writing is just a dream. And it's hard to pay the rent on a dream.
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