A Bookish Conversation with Kali Kucera, author of ‘Unawqi, Hunter of the Sun’
Kali Kucera is an American lorist and short story writer living in Quito, Ecuador, where he also rides and writes about bus and train travel. Since he was 9 years old he has been composing plays, operas, short stories, and multi-disciplinary experiences. He has been both a teacher and performer as well as an arts mobilizer, and founded the Tacoma Poet Laureate competition in 2008.
His latest book is the mythical realism novel, Unawqi, Hunter of the Sun.
Inside the Book
Title: Unawqi, Hunter of the Sun
Author: Kali Kucera
Genre: Mythical Realism
In a time when supernatural and industrial worlds are staged to collide, an Andean boy finds himself in the center of an epic struggle between the cosmos and the earth. Unawqi is born with both insurmountable power and a fate of certain death, both of which are challenged by his hunt of the emperor, Aakti, the Sun: the very force that desires to abandon the earth unless Unawqi can overcome him.
Premise: How easily we take the Sun for granted. We are conditioned to its rising and setting on time, and assume it enjoys doing so, or more likely is indifferent. Unawqi, Hunter of the Sun reveals a more perilous tale: the Sun, Aakti, is a being who is a reluctant player in providing light and warmth to our world, and even more has always desired to leave us to die if he didn’t have certain personal complications standing in his way. Aakti will stop at nothing to get what he wants, even if that involves murder of his own kin or annihilation of an entire living planet. Ironically, what holds him back is the very life he is creating; the family from which he tries to but cannot wrest control, and among them a young intrepid boy emerges, a hunter who sets out on a journey, not to stop the Sun, but to overcome him with a force we also take for granted: our humanity.
Thank you for this interview! I’d like to know more about you as a person first. What do you do when you’re not writing?
I’m a bit of an Indiana Jones of bus travel, you might say. I explore the scores of hidden places in South America that are only accessible by bus, publish their schedules so other adventurers can enjoy them, and sell tickets where possible. My site is andestransit.com.
When did you start writing?
When I was about 9 years old, I wrote my first poem about a statue of Thomas Burke I frequently passed when accompanying my mother to meetings at the University of Washington. From then on, the writing bug took many forms and never left me.
As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?
I think what was pivotal was a gradual process. I had been telling my short stories as an oral story teller for a long time, and then realized long into it that, you know, we have a library here if it could be written down! My short stories are published in an anthology, South Sound Legends and Tales.
If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why?
I’m looking for that placid small town in the USA where everything just feels smug, you know, as long as folk just play by the rules and exchange the correct manners and give credit to the right master. There will be a dark truth hidden there underneath the pavement and I’d love to go digging.
If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?
Well, I’d write of course! I have more books in my head than hours in the day to write them.
Where would you like to set a story that you haven’t done yet?
Right here in San Jose de Ayora, Ecuador. It’s a little pueblo underneath a big mountain, and yet with so many weird surprises I walk across, like a woman I encountered the other day, sitting alongside a hiking trail selling avocadoes. What was she doing there! Well, that’s Ayora. People here close their restaurants at lunch time, because of course, they have to go to lunch! I’m not joking!
Back to your present book, Unawqi, how did you publish it?
In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research?
I don’t necessarily travel in order to do research, because that’s what I do in my other job. It’s more the other way around, I research based on my reflections from traveling.
Why was writing Unawqi so important to you?
Ah. Because justice needed to be given to two extraordinary unrelated things that happened to me in this life, and each of them had dimensions that extended into other-worldy planes that could only be expressed in a great story, and only in the great story would you see how the unrelated are truly related. That is the power of lore.
Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?
Nature. Because I write in the tradition of the ancient storytellers and myth-writers, who look at something in nature and reflect on how bizarre it is, and begin to wonder why. The story starts from there.
Any final words?
I love that question, because words are never final. We are so small of containers in the scope of the words the universe has to give us, that we will always, always overflow.