The latest installment of the Emerald Musings Author Interview Blitz features a conversation with Jay Lemming, author of Billy Maddox Takes His Shot. As always, we’ve asked five questions, and this author is brave enough to answer them. Please enjoy!
Question # 1: Let’s start with a fun question– Why do you write?
I think this question gets to the heart of personal identity. Why do any of us do what we do? Why do we have the personalities we do? If we are compulsive writers, it is because of a combination of the love of imagination (and the love of the stories that develop FROM imagination) and the desire to create. I can’t see making money being fundamental to the love of writing, since making money from writing is much more difficult than it is from being a lawyer or a doctor, though not impossible. I also can’t say that self-expression is the best reason, though many people, including some writers, say it is true. People from all walks of life affect different personalities and I think writers who buy into affectation like that really need to knock it off, even those who have succeeded in their work.
One thing I will add is that writing provides a place of safety, where one can’t be hurt. People get disappointed by so much in life, from the disappointments created by others, from the frustrations that come from things not going our way. Writing is a place where we play God and basically make anything happen that we want to. That’s not to suggest writers are power-hungry in a megalomaniacal way but more that they are tempted to take on a role where they know they can avoid pain.
Question # 2: What is one “piece of writing advice” that you wish you’d never taken?
That the writing has to be perfect. That the sentences and words have to be perfect. What a crock, and it’s cost me many years of writing by slowing me up ridiculously. Just tell your story–if you think about the development of the story you’re writing and not so much the words that build the story, you’re likely to write a more compelling, well-paced story. But we get so caught up in the nit-picky aspects of the writing that we don’t realize we’re hurting more than helping ourselves.
Question # 3: How would you explain your creative process to a five-year-old?
I don’t think explaining creativity to a five-year-old is something you do. They get it. They already have it by virtue of being so young and unencumbered by the socialization process. I remember once hearing a quote attributed to Picasso that he spent his entire career trying to paint like a child. I love that quote and think it’s so true. It’s all about rediscovering the freedom that we only had as children. Writers are more likely to have to explain their creative process to other adults because adults who’ve been beaten into conformity by the system often wonder how the hell how imagination can survive at that age. For some people, freedom and imagination are a lifeline to prove the soul is still alive. But kids have it. And it’s too bad that creativity has to be stripped away by this crappy thing we all call responsibility.
Question # 4: How do you know when something in your manuscript should be edited, removed, or left just as it is?
As a writer, you already know your story at a level deeper than the words on the page. Your words are born FROM that deeper understanding. So when you look at the words, or the sentences, or the scenes you’ve put down on paper, you can feel whether the story is “dressed right” or needs a change of clothes. If you’re honest in your consideration of your story and don’t get tempted by affectation, you’ll know when certain words, scenes or characters have to go. You’ll also feel the power of a sentence that is well-written and accurately reflects the story you are trying to tell. There’s nothing wrong with using complex vocabulary as long as it is being used honestly in service to your story.
Question # 5: And finally– What do you plan to write tomorrow?
It’s more editing at this point. I have a 16,000-word story and I have finished a draft of the first scene. The second scene, which I polish tomorrow (and maybe flesh out with more writing), is going to succeed if I have satisfied some curiosity generated in the first scene, develop more curiosity to keep the reader going and expand reader’s understanding of the characters. I also need to be sure I have a general understanding of the overall narrative direction by this point so I don’t veer off course. I’m looking forward to it.
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