Monday, 19 November 2012
Author Interview: LMD Jones
Do you plan everything or just let the story flow?
Plots don't come easy to me, so I tend not to plan them. Characters, on the other hand, I spend a lot of time planning. I plan the story mostly by developing the characters. All characters in Works & Days Book 1, even the ones that aren't given names in the book, have pretty detailed backstories: from where they were born, relationship with parents, what foods they eat, music they listen to... right down to what posters were on the walls of their room (if they had a room) when they were teenagers. Ninety percent of that is never mentioned in the story, but it's all important for me to have in my head.
Do your characters ever want to take over the story?
I don't know if they want to (a few of them are terrified of responsibility), but they always do. The only way I can write a story is to develop characters, put them into some kind of situation, watch them react, and write it down.
What is your favourite food?
Grilled chicken Caesar salad
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Right now my job requires me to work nights (in a call center), but it gets pretty dead after 10 p.m. and I'm sort of left to do what I want unless a call comes in. I wrote over half of Works & Days on the company dime (as I'm doing right now with this interview). But I've always been more awake and alert at night. I've never been good in the morning. I almost always wake up feeling depressed in the morning and then feel better as the day goes on and night falls.
Where do you dream of traveling to and why?
Russia, because I speak the language (fairly well...) and love Dostoevsky.
Do distant places feature in your books?
They do not feature prominently in Works & Days -- because a big part of that book has to do with day-to-day life in a dying mid-western town. However, I have been researching a historical novel that would be set in Guyana in the late 1970s. Through a strange set of coincidences, I started reading up on Guyanese history about a year ago and just became fascinated with it. I put some of that reading into use in Works & Days by making Val's father from Guyana. The historical novel would follow him during his youth as a member of the Guyanese Defence Force before he became disillusioned and left the country forever. I may never actually write that book, but I'm having a lot of fun with the research.
Do you listen to music while writing?
Yes, mostly punk and indie rock (although I'm also a die hard fan of Prince). The first draft of Works & Days was written entirely to music: Rainer Maria, Cloud Nothings, Husker Du, The Replacements, White Stripes, Helen Love, etc.
Could you tell us a bit about your latest release?
Works & Days is a contemporary relationship drama set in the fictional city of Ludlow, Ohio, where three people have just moved into a decrepit house together. Nineteen-year-old Val Mayerick is a college student and aspiring blogger/zine writer. For a few weeks last fall she dated 21-year-old Eugene Green, a college dropout who has just quit one indie rock band and is trying to put together another one. Rounding out the trio is Irene Hazel, a beautiful woman Eugene met a few months ago. Both Val and Eugene have become infatuated with her, although their relationship with her is so far only platonic. Into this mix comes Marie Leary, Val's smirking best friend who stands at the head of a group of social misfits who seem to come and go from the house as if they live there. The story follows these characters as they pursue their dreams and each other among the streets and neighborhoods of a slowly dying mid-western town.
What have you learned about writing and publishing since you first started?
This is my first foray into the self-publishing experience, so I haven't learned much yet -- except that if you want to self-publish, you have to get out there and promote your book, but with respect and sincerity. That means you don't just shove your book in everybody's face, you take the time to find out where your book fits and who it might resonate with. Then you talk to those people as if they're people, not just consumers. If you're sincere, some of them will respond. It might not always be a positive response, but you have to learn to find something to appreciate in every response, not just the praise (although it's also important to revel in it a little when somebody really enjoys your book).
Is there anything you would do differently?
Not right now, but I could easily have a different answer tomorrow or even an hour from now.
Who, or what, if anything has influenced your writing?
I try to get inspiration from a variety of things. On the literary end, Works & Days was probably most directly influenced by Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City and Lionel Shriver's Checker & the Derailleurs. But I draw a lot from Charles Dickens, Edith Wharton, J.D. Salinger, David Sedaris, and Kathy Acker. I take almost as much inspiration from music and movies as well. I only wish I could write dialogue like Aaron Sorkin or outrageous situations like Dan Harmon -- or block a scene like Kathryn Bigelow.
Anything you would say to those just starting out in the craft?
Do you mean writing or publishing? If it's publishing, I'm too new at this to have anything useful to say. But if it's writing, I've been writing for one reason or another pretty much all my life. And whether it's poetry, fiction, personal non-fiction, journalism, or even legal analysis (all of which I've been paid to write at one time or another), I'd say only that you should enjoy it. And for fiction specifically, I'd say you should really know your characters -- every one of them should produce a strong reaction in you.
What are three words that describe you?
just getting by
What's your favourite book or who is your favourite writer?
Among living writers, that would be Lionel Shriver. She's the finest prose stylist I've ever read, and her characters are almost as engaging and complex as real people. Checker & the Derailleurs is a book I keep coming back to since I first read it when I was nineteen (the same age as most of the characters in the book). But I also loved Double Fault and Ordinary Decent Criminals. And I think We Need to Talk About Kevin is a leading contender for "most underrated novel of the 21st century so far," even in light of the public praise it did receive (which was far more than any of her other novels).
Blurb of your latest release or coming soon book
Hold Me Up (Book 2 of Works & Days, a punk rock Romance) will be available on Kindle in January 2013. In it, we'll find out that Sylvia plays drums and what that might mean for Eugene's band.
List of previous books if any
No previous books, except as an editor but that was long ago.
Any websites/places readers can find you on the web.
I blog at http://LMDays.blogspot.com
Thank you, LMD and good luck with your books!