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Ruxton author Evan Balkan finds his inspiration everywhere

“Independence” a novel by Ruxton resident Evan Balkan, is due out in September.
“Independence” a novel by Ruxton resident Evan Balkan, is due out in September. (Courtesy Photo)

Writer Evan Balkan teaches at the Community College of Baltimore County, and is an instructor in the teaching writing graduate program at Johns Hopkins University. Balkan’s latest novel, “Independence,” is coming soon. I connected with the Ruxton resident for a quick Q&A.

Q: “Independence” is (per the publisher) “an evocative story of true love, youthful mistakes, desperation, and breath-taking betrayal,” and is set in 1970s’ South Dakota and 1990s’ Louisiana. Were those places familiar to you before writing this book?

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Balkan: Not at all, I’m afraid. I’ve been to almost 40 states, but never to South Dakota and only to Louisiana once. My wife has family from and still living in Minnesota, so we’ve spent some time in the Midwest. The rest was research.

Q: Where do you find your ideas and inspiration?

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Balkan: Quite literally from anywhere; I make sure to keep my mind attuned to things around me and pay attention — when I read, watch a movie, listen to the radio or just take a walk. I am always thinking and make sure to keep myself open to ideas.

Q: How long was “Independence” in the works?

Balkan: I actually wrote the first draft in a short, two-month burst. Then, I spent the next 2-3 years revising/rewriting.

Q: How do you find time and energy for writing after teaching writing all day?

Balkan: Well, it’s literally what I do. I always have to be engaged in some project, and usually multiple projects simultaneously. But I have an enormous advantage in that I do teach writing, so I am always engaged in the subject. Plus, if I want to be the most effective creative writing professor I can be, I really do need to “practice what I preach,” and continuously.

Q: What is your favorite part of writing a book?

Balkan: I love getting lost in a different world (the novel I am working on now is set in Chile in the 1970s, for example). I am happiest when I am traveling, and writing a novel is a bit like mental travel: a different world, a different place/time, engaging with a different persona. It’s hard work, to be sure, but there are instant rewards as well. Every day that you get your 1,000 words in means you have accomplished something. And then this amazing thing happens where you find yourself at 30,000, 60,000, 90,000 — and you’re starting to have a book, and the satisfaction of creating something that didn’t exist before is immeasurable.

Q: “Independence” is for general fiction readers, but you have a diverse catalog. What are some of your other writings?

Balkan: A young adult novel, “Spitfire,” was published in 2018. I have another novel that will be published in 2021, and a Baltimore guidebook coming out later this year. What honestly excites me most is a children’s book that my daughter Amelia Balkan and I co-authored (and Amelia illustrated), called “Penelope Pine,” that will be published either late this year or early next year with Histria Kids. I’m very proud of Amelia and can’t wait for that book to hit the shelves.

“Independence” is due to be released in September, from University of Wisconsin Press (learn more at uwpress.wisc.edu/books.html).

Congratulations, Evan! We look forward to seeing more books from you (and Amelia) for years to come.

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