My second guest post features author, Jason Mott. An accomplished poet, Jason is a NY Times Bestseller with his novel, THE RETURNED. It’s a beautiful book that explores the human condition and psyche: What would you do if someone you loved returned from the dead? Thought provoking and intriguing, the book has been adapted to a mini-series on ABC, starting in March. It will be entitled, RESURRECTION. You can learn more about Jason by visiting his site at: www.jasonmottauthor.com.
JM: I grew up with a deep love of epic poetry. The Odyssey, Beowulf, Gilgamesh, these were the stories that influenced me from a very young age. They’re epic poems, so I guess I grew up not really seeing that divergence between storytelling and poetry that most people see. For me, the two genres aren’t nearly as far apart as other place them.
My actual writing efforts began with fiction. In a sense, it has always been, and always will be, my first love. But when I ventured into writing poetry, I quickly feel in love with that as well. I’ve fallen into a pattern of oscillating between the two periodically. So when I had completed my BFA in Fiction, I was ready to focus on poetry for a while. So I applied for an MFA in Poetry.
When it came to The Returned, I feel that my poetry background helped me control my natural tendency to be verbose. Poetry teaches you the craft of power via compression. You learn to say a lot in a very small space. So, during revisions of The Returned, when I found a section that I felt was a bit long-winded, I would challenge myself to discover a way of saying the same thing in a much smaller space. I believe poetry helped with that immensely.
CL: You characters are very approachable, believable, Human. Did working in the corporate/public sector give you an insight into everyday people’s behaviors? Did you ever keep a journal of your observations?
JM: Well most of my life has been working in customer service. I dealt with all manner of people each and every day. And I certainly believe that those interactions and, more importantly, trying to really understand the nature of those interactions, helps me build characters when I write. Work in customer service long enough and you quickly learn all the ways that people create of talking around the subject they really want to discuss. You learn how people deflect and divert, even from themselves. And I think that makes for interesting characters. I just hope that other readers feel the way you do about my characters.
I used to keep a journal, but not anymore. I try to stay busy enough that, whenever I encounter something or someone unique, I can use them in a current project almost immediately. I try to keep several projects running at once for just that reason. You never know when you might come across someone or something you want to incorporate. And whenever I used to keep journals, I would always misplace them and, ultimately, lose the moment. So now I “spend those nickels” as soon as I get them.
CL: How has being Southern played a role in your writing? What about being Southern do you cherish and what could you do without?
JM: I love the south. I love living here and being rooted here. Within my writing, the many ways in which southerners view storytelling and the oral tradition influence my writing. Everyone in the south wants to tell their story, and they want to tell it better than you tell your story. Storytelling is almost a unified competition among southerners, so I like to try and bring that into my stories and characters. And, for my own development as a writer, listening to how people tell their stories helps me learn more about how I may want to tell my stories.
I’m hesitant to say that I love one thing about being southern more than I love another. And I’m even more hesitant to say that I dislike something in particular about being southern. In the end, it’s a complete package. You cannot have the wonderful things about southern life without being able to contrast them against the less-than-wonderful. So, in the end, I take being a southerner for all that it is, bitter and sweet.
CL: You have a fascination with race car driving. Did this come about during your writing or after? Does it influence how you see the craft of writing? Any Parallels?
JM: I’m a huge fan of racing and race car driving. My love of motorsports came about long after my love of writing, but I feel it works as an escape from my writing. Writing is always on my mind, even when I’m “relaxing” by watching television or movies. I’m always analyzing movies, television, even people, from a standpoint of writing and narrative. So, for me, motorsports provides something different. It’s an experience very foreign to writing, and it requires a skillset that is very dissimilar. I think that helps me relax. Helps me quiet the writer inside of me for a little while which, ultimately, helps me relax and make it through the day.
Racing doesn’t have any direct influence on my writing, but various indirect influences. The mentality that it takes to be a race car driver is interesting to me. It requires a level of focus and diligence that more people could learn to benefit from. It’s a sport that teaches you to aim for the absolute best for each and every lap. It teaches you to both know your limits and to push them further. Every writer can benefit from that mentality, I believe.
CL: What is the next book you’re working on?
JM: My next project is another magical realism novel set in a small, southern town. I can’t really say much more than that right now, but it’s a project that I’m very excited about.
CL: What is a favorite memory growing up in NC? Have many of your childhood memories been interwoven into your writing? How?
JM: It’s difficult to choose any one memory, but I do have fond memories of riding in the back of my father’s pickup truck throughout my childhood. I grew up in a pretty rural area, and going to town was a big event. So whenever I climbed into the bed of that truck, it was to go somewhere new and different. And, for a child, there are few things more magical than that.
I’m always slipping personal memories into my writing. Typically, it’ll manifest itself in the form of a character experiencing a similar event or perhaps having a memory of their own childhood that is, in fact, my memory from my childhood. It’s a tricky process, as you have to be objective and make sure the memory you’re inserting really fits the needs of the character/story. But it feels good when it happens correctly.
CL: If there’s one thing you wish someone would have told you before you became a published writer, what would it be?
JM: The dream doesn’t require nearly as much work as the reality. I think that many people feel that once they become published, it’s a type of “finish line” and that, in many ways, they’ve “made it.” For some, that may be the case, but once you become a published author the amount of work you have to do only increases. Promoting your book, working with your publisher, working on new projects, just trying to adapt your life to the change, they can all be very, very overwhelming. So, to other writers, I say: always understand that there is no finish line. Keep running.
You can purchase Jason’s novel here: