For today’s interview, I was lucky enough to get the author of Blessed Sons (Wragsink 2012)  to talk with me about writing and about his book. Below we talk about what he’s reading, writing, and working on now.


Wittle: Who are some of your literary heroes?

McKinley: I am influenced by everything and I think like most writers I’ve gone through phases where some of the big names have been major influences during their particular phase. But, the three most consistent influences on my work are James Baldwin, Toni Morrison and John Edgar Wideman.

 Wittle: What book or books are you reading now?

McKinley: I am reading a really cool sci-fi, futuristic, adventure novel called Ready Player One. The author’s name is Ernest Cline. It’s an homage to all things in 80s pop culture with some social commentary thrown in for good measure. The last novel I read before that was the new Zadie Smith. NW. That was also well done.

 Wittle: You are a short story writer and a novelist. Could you see yourself working in another genre like poetry or creative nonfiction? Why or why not?

McKinley: My poetry is crap and I’ve never been 100% sure what constitutes creative non-fiction. Plus, my journey with what I can write is tough enough. So, I guess that’s a no.

Wittle: Could you briefly explain how you approach writing a novel verses how you approach writing a short story?

McKinley: The major difference is when I approach a short story I know where I’m going and how to get there. With the one novel that I’ve published, I had a solid idea of where I was going. But, with my two or three failed novels, ones that I’ve scrapped, I’ve scrapped them principally because I had no idea where the hell they were going or how to get them there. If I have a worthy conceit for a short story, I can get it done in a reasonable amount of time. Novels, not so much. For me, short stories are like trout fishing. Novels are like alligator wrestling.

 Wittle: Your novel, Blessed Sons ( is a richly layered book about a changing community and the impact this change has on the people left in the community. What was your inspiration for this novel?

McKinley: First off, thank you. That’s a very kind question. I read a non-fiction book in college called “Reasonable Racism” that ignited the flame for Blessed Sons. Then I drew inspiration from the characters who I knew inhabited the novel. This sounds trite, I know, but once I had the premise, I let the characters do the work.

Wittle: Did your novel start out as a novel or was it a short story that grew?

McKinley: It was always a three act, plotted novel.

Wittle: Is there a character or a scene from your novel that may have not made it to the final draft that you could see yourself expanding into a short story or another novel?

McKinley: Saul had a son named David who was cut from the final draft. Jon had a sister named Lynn. Perhaps they could join forces for a second novel. A Western.

Wittle: You said in an interview at Reading Baby ( you made the city of Philadelphia a character in your book and said you felt your novel would be a different story if placed in another city. Could you describe a bit more what you mean by that?

McKinley: Well, the city drives the political implications of what’s happening in the story. The characters are mostly native Philadelphians who therefore have a distinct and inherent, toughness, integrity and skepticism. Also, music, food, vernacular, terrain, etc. are integral to Blessed Sons and would have made for a different novel if set elsewhere.

Wittle: If your book became a movie or a play, what would you hope the play or screenwriter would focus the story on?

McKinley: Well, I would hope to have quite a bit of input. But, if I had no input, I would hope that the story was centered on the characters and their respective journeys. Let the characters carry the narrative.

Wittle: What are you working on now?

McKinley: A new novel. Hopefully one I don’t have to scrap.


I’d like to thank Eric for taking time to chat with me.

To learn more about Author Eric McKinley:

Eric McKinley is the author of Blessed Sons, a novel, published by WragsInk in 2012. His short story collection, Intrusion, will be released in December 2013. Samplings of his published work and other stuff can be found at

To order your copy of his novel, Blessed Sons: