James Joseph Brown interview, with Meg Tuite
Anything you want to share with our readers about the inspiration for this novel excerpt?
Alex is one of four distant cousins who visit the same fortune teller in Teotihuacán and soon afterward end up in four different destinations around the globe. One of his cousins ends up in Seville, Spain, another in Seoul, Korea, and the last in Las Vegas, Nevada. They are all sort of lost in life and just searching for some sort of peace but there’s this sense it’s just going to be so difficult for them. Even as I was writing this book I wanted for them all to pull through in the end, even though I knew that by the nature of this work, there would be very few survivors. Not literally, it’s not a blood bath. What I mean is that it’s just not the kind of story where everyone gets through in one piece. A certain degree of failure is automatically written into the equation. I’d love to write that kind of feel good book where they all return to the Pyramid of the Sun and have a picnic at the end and talk about what they’ve learned. But when you’re writing and creating a world it takes on a life of its own and you have to remain true to it. And in my world, the picnic’s obviously not going to happen. But still there are some beams of sunlight that managed to shine through. At least one of these characters might find some kind of happiness. There’s always hope, even in my dark view of the world. I’m like many writers who get their tragic feelings out on the page, in real life, I am a relentless optimist.
Do you have a specific writing schedule that you adhere to and/or any tricks that help you, that might useful to our readers?
My schedule varies. However I consider myself an extremely disciplined writer in my own way, though it’s a joyful kind of discipline. If you’re going to be a working writer you must write. It’s called ass in chair time. You do not make excuses for distractions to go away. I come from the Natalie Goldberg school of writing. Just keep your hand moving. If a bomb goes off, don’t stop. When the world ends, you’ll go out writing. Writing is like flossing. When you do it every day, it’s just not a big deal.
What are you reading at this time?
I just finished reading Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls by Alissa Nutting because the book is gorgeous. She’s one of those people that is on my list of ‘If I could write like anyone, it would be _____’ writers. Aimee Bender is another one. Stephen Graham Jones is there too, as well as Craig Clevenger, Anne Carson, Junot Diaz, and the list goes on of course.
Name the top two or three most influential writers in your reading life and maybe a note on why.
Ursula K. LeGuin because she creates entire worlds with her writing and breaks boundaries and lives in other dimensions and she uses language that is mesmerizing and hypnotic. When I read Fisherman of the Inland Sea for the first time there were moments when I felt my heartbeat slow down and my breathing almost stop, because I had been transported to another place and I didn’t want the experience to end; it was as if she had put me under a spell and everything else disappeared. Writers like that put me on the verge of tears so much it’s downright embarrassing. They just rip open my heart and tell me I’m not some creature made of randomly arranged cells wandering around on this ball of nickel and iron in space, I’m something utterly indefinable and someone else has seen through this disguise and found a way to penetrate this and transcribe their notes and actually get it published and have it find its way into my hands. Chuck Palahniuk because he writes lines that I feel like I’ve been thinking for most of my adult life. How do you read a novel like Fight Club and not reevaluate your entire life and place in society?