- Guest Author -
Today I introduce a very interesting author from the USA.
Jonathan Odell is a novelist, short story writer, essayist, speaker and memoirist. His work appears in anthologies, national periodicals, newspapers, and a soon to be published volume of essays about growing up in Mississippi. He has also done extensive work in organizations in the area of racial inclusion. Jonathan now makes his home in Minnesota, but stays long enough each year with his Mississippi family to keep his citizenship papers up to date.
Welcome, Jonathan ....
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I began late. Growing up a gay boy in the conservative South, I buried any creative expression that might make my manhood suspect. I became a successful businessman instead, beginning my own company, making a fortune and wanting to die.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
At age 45, instead of killing myself, I quit my job, left my partner, sold my house, gave away my dog and decided to learn to write—from scratch.
3. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
I start with the voices and let them take me where they will. I develop plot later.
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Being able to say it aloud in public and nobody laughs. Also all my social disabilities are now seen as the charming eccentricities of an artist.
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
The dark nights when you realize the story doesn’t hold together.
6. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
I was an industrial psychologist and leadership coach.
7. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
As a white man who writes about race, the thing I’m most proud of is developing a dedicated African American following.
8. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
A memoir about growing up gay, fundamentalist, and Southern Baptist in Mississippi. I may entitle it, “God, What Were You Thinking?”
9. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Exploring on my own spiritual journey.
10. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
11. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
DON’T write what you know. Write what you are DRAWN to know. It’s the only way to keep your story alive.
12. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Yes. When I have it, I just have my characters talk without editing.
13. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
I can edit 14 hours a day anywhere. I can write new material only 2-3 and that needs to be in the morning, sealed in a tomb.
14. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
I am not wealthy, but I'm lucky enough to have friends who are. I love to go to their summer cabins, weekend homes, and winter retreats and spend weeks at a time in glorious isolation.
15. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
Making myself cry or laugh out loud.
16. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
Sorry, but I’ve never found anyone who knows me better than Faulkner.
17. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
You make it look effortless! Or, I could have sworn you were a woman, or black.
18. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
“Didn’t you have an editor?”
19. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
That’s all I'm influence by. I’m constantly excavating and re-using the past.
20. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
My husband works out of Myanmar. I love traveling with him and exploring the country. I love Law and Order reruns.
21. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
Yes, I’ve made much use of editors.
22. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
I’ve written something that I love so much, I don’t need anyone else to tell me it’s good. That is a high.
23. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
My husband. When he’s home, we spend 24 hours a day together for months at a time. He paints and I write in rooms that adjoin. I never get tired of his company. He is the most interesting person I know. And, he likes my writing.
24. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
Exchange jobs with each other for a year. You are all stuck in your own narrow perspectives.
25. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
Immediate future—a 25-city book tour. Long term, I’m working on another novel and my first memoir.
26. WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO HEAVEN?
I know it’s sacrilege to say, but I don’t love any book that much. But I’m sure they have a great library there.
27. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
Yes. I really can’t create a believable character unless I can empathize.
28. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
As soon as you get over the fallacy that the world should be fair, then you’re ok. There are much worse books than mine that have done much, much better. AND there are books that are much better than mine that will never get published. Stay humble. It’s not all about you.
29. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
I quit three or four times during the writing of each book. It helps to surrender it all and then later if you come back to it, you know it’s your choice. There is renewed energy and optimism.
30. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
The first book, The View from Delphi. It’s the book I learned to write on. It also resulted in a reconciliation with my parents and my home state of Mississippi, all of which I had abandoned.
31. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER.
It’s something that each writer needs to be clear on for themselves. NEVER let others define success for you. For me, it’s to discover what I have to say that no one else can.
32. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
Beyond being dramatically transformed into completely self-actualized people, I want them to say, “That was a damn good story.” Story is everything.
33. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
I’ve never done it myself.
34. WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
I'm living it. Until the next dream comes along.
35. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
I’ve been blessed with agents, editor, publishers and p.r. people who work their hardest to keep me out of my own way.
36. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
37. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
Intense, private, serious, spiritual, and sporadically silly.
38. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
Bullies and religious intolerance.
39. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
Bettyville: A Memoir by George Hodgman . Wonderful Comes out in March of this year.
40. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
Everything looked familiar. And then he knew. This was the place from which his journey had begun.
41. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
To have the capacity to love more.
Clancy's comment: Thank you, Jonathan. Wow, a 25 city book tour! Good luck. Hope you sell heaps.