Today is the birthday of Oregon author Ken Kesey. The 2008 finalists for the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction are:

K.B. Dixon for The Sum of His Syndromes. The book is described by Ken as “a story of a slightly disturbed young druge who had found himself at a personal and profesional crossroads.” Ken says he has a writing schedule and he is “unflatteringly rigid about sticking to it. It includes a significant portion of each weekday evening with additional hours stuffed in here and there on weekends.” When asked what inspires him, he responds, “Lots of things inspire me—too many things to list individually. Ideas inspire me, words inspire me, other writing inspires me, the smell of soggy dog inspires me.”

Molly Gloss for The Hearts of Horses. The novel takes place in the early 1900’s in Eastern Oregon, and tells the story of 19-year-old Martha Lessen. In an interview with Powell’s, Molly says, “I write to please myself, for the most part. I try to write a book that I can’t find on the shelf to read.” In 1990, Molly’s book The Jump-Off Creek won the Oregon Book Award for the Novel.

Ehud Havazelet for Bearing the Body. The novel tells the history of the Mirsky family, including Nathan, a medical student; Daniel, his troubled brother; and their father, Sol, a Holocaust survivor. Ehud says “Life allowing, I write six mornings a week. By lunch I’ve either exhausted or enraged myself.” When asked what inspires him, he says “When I’m working just about anything does, beginning with the writers I love best. When I’m morosely not, nothing does.”

Lee Montgomery for Whose World Is This. This collection of short stories won the University of Iowa’s John Simmons Short Fiction Award. Lee lives in Portland and is the executive editor at Tin House. She is also the author of  The Things Between Us, the 2007 winner of the Sarah Winnemucca Award for Creative Nonfiction.

Willy Vlautin for The Motel Life. The novel focuses on two Nevada brothers who are on the run after a hit-and-run accident. When asked about his writing schedule, Willy says, “The only time I think alright is in the morning. I progressively get worse as the day goes on so the earlier I get going the better.” Willy says he’s inspired by “Bad nerves, William Kennedy, Jim Thompson, Raymond Carver, Ennio Morricone,Willie Nelson, alchohlism, Carole Lombard, Barry Gifford, anxiety, horse racing, working class stories, graphic novels, Shane McGowan.”