Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Interview with Writer J P Jones

J P Jones has published four novels.  See link below to his Facebook page.  His fifth novel will be out early next year.  He lives in Washington, DC.  

Why write novels?   

Because I am very opinionated and my ideas don't fit well with any group's thinking.  (Clevinger!)  So I write about the world in a way to illustrate the world that I see.   When I began writing, I very much wanted to write about people, places, and events that I thought no one else was writing about.  In essence I write because I disagree to some degree with everyone and feel a deep need to express my opinions.   My father was always politic and agreed with everyone.   When I was in my late adolescence I decided that I would never do that. I wouldn't argue with people - at least not very much -  but I would ALWAYS state my opinion.  And, after 40 years in the DC metro area I hate Fed gov't employees who, if they have any opinions (which usually don't), seem incapable of expressing them.   They are all around me and seem to live and die while making no difference whatsoever in this world.  That would drive me crazy.  Thousands and thousands of little nebbishes, commuting to their jobs, eating lunch in the cafeteria, and going home in grid-locked traffic.

How do you work? 

I work by sitting at the computer and forcing myself to keep writing until I get something going, occasionally stopping to think out a situation or character.  I usually do this thinking at a window where I look out but take no cognizance of the scenery.  I'm totally inside my head.  Sometimes I do this thinking while staring at a wall.   (As my brother used to say:   "Thinking about something is hard so people do so little of it."   He came up with inventions that were patented.  

How does an novel originate?

I start with an idea that I want to write about:   Tunis - the limitation of liberal attitudes about race in DC -  Cumberland and its people who didn't leave to find a job in the metro areas- what would have happened to me in Vietnam -  how modern young people react to a crime that touches them.   

Do you know the end of your novel when you start writing?

Often I know only the end of a story and figure out how to get there.   In one case, I just started writing to see where it would take me.  I have always used a murder investigation to hang my story on.   It gives people gravitas that they, otherwise, might not have.  I've written short stories that don't use crime.   I don't think those stories would interest anyone but me - and possibly not even me very much.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Advice:  Look for some central idea about a person or place that you feel no writer is addressing, then explore it.  Find what's unique in your thinking/life/experience.  Don't rely on other writers to give you guidance on any central point in your story.  If you can't come up with a central idea, then forget it.  If you have to do research, do it, then forget most of it.  Don't make the work a showcase of all you know about a certain subject.   I made this mistake on the first draft of my book about Vietnam, which included a first part about a court-marital in WWII.  I deleted all that voluminous crap Don't make it a travelogue, either. I made this mistake on my first draft of the Tunis story. I deleted all those trips to other cities in my second or third draft.


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