Tuesday, February 28, 2012

1/2 Dozen for Joshilyn Jackson

I love Joshilyn Jackson's wit and fire,
her devotion and heart.
I love that she goes deep and brings back to us
what we might just need to carry on.
She is a wonder on the page
and in life.
So ... here is a 1/2 Dozen
with the astounding
JOSHILYN JACKSON.

Buckle Up...


Some writers hate to write. Other writers love being engaged in the creative process. How would you describe your relationship with the page?

I hate to write. I LOVE having written.

The hardest part is making myself begin to do a thing I know very much that I will hate. Once I actually force myself to put my butt in a chair and my hands on some keys, I resign myself to it. Before I know it I am all engaged and I struggle and froth and foam and push. Time disappears.

Once a chunk of the drafting is done, it becomes wonderful. I live for the revise. I love to take a heaving tangle of prose, as ugly and unorganized as a bag of muddy snakes, and wrestle around looking for delicious fangs or pale overlapping under-scales. I love to find the thick curve of something truly muscular in all the silt and crap. I throw away more words than I keep.

At some point, the characters begin to feel like they are taking over, things I did not plan seem to spontaneously happen, and even though intellectually I know it the book is coming from me, experientially it feels like something alive and more than half wild that is kindly letting me ride it.

That’s the best part.

Have you learned to strike a balance between your writing life and the other aspects of your life?

No. I have no balance at all. Life feels to me like an alive teeter totter. I have zero organizational skills. I breed chaos. Which leads me to....

What's your advice to a writer who's looking for a lifelong partner? Any particularly useful traits to suggest in said partner? (Do you want to tell us a brief love story here?)

Scott, my husband, is ballast. I used to feel SO sorry for him, because he had married me. I am dreadful. I maelstrom around. Yes, that’s a verb. I know because I actively do it. If I had married me, I would have mercy-killed me long ago. And I used to genuinely feel bad for him sometimes, because my LORD he MARRIED me; he was LIFELONG STUCK.

But you know, I later realized, we had been friends for years before we married or even dated. I had met all of his significant girlfriends. And when I looked back, every single freakin’ one of them maelstromed about in a positive hail storm of mental illnesses and chaos. They were all viperous, loony bitches. Like me. I was his TYPE.

Since he was going to marry one of us, I was the best one out of his possible pool of loons, because I freaking adore him. I like how he smells. I like his dumb jokes. I like the sound of how his big heart goes thump-thump. He is my best friend, the person I like most, my favorite one. And he likes me back exactly that way.

Writer or no, that’s the person you should marry. The one you LIKE the most. I fall in and out of love with Scott romantically about twelve times a year. Thanks, hormones! But I always like him best of all people on the planet, enjoy his company the most. Marry that one.

Faith. Do you consider yourself religious? If so, how does that manifest in your work and/or your process?

Hugely. Hugely religious. Trying to be, anyway. It’s difficult. I lose my way and my faith a lot. I depend on liturgy and service to find my way back, but then, I am so deeply Christ-bitten that I always come back to it, the faith thing. I feel defensive about saying I am a Christian but not about being one... Like I have to say, “I am a Christian but I super like gay people and I don’t think we should go explode all the Muslims, good grief!”

I worry I have to say things to define it, as it is a huge spectrum and can mean so many many many things, some of them abhorrent to me, and meanwhile, some of my definitions and deepest beliefs are abhorrent to other people who call themselves Christians, too. I lean HARD into universalism, for example, which some Christians think will put me directly into hell.

To me, faith means I have to try to make the world better and softer; I have to try to be a better kinder gentler version of myself; I have to judge less, to listen more, and when I fail and am an unbearable little petty snot-wad, I am still beloved and worthy of love, and thank God for that, because I have my moments. Don’t we all.

What's your worst writerly habit?

Inconsistency. I wish I wrote every day, or at the same time every day, instead of in great heaving fits that leave me behind on everything, so then I do everything, and then I am behind on the book, and then I write again in a great heaving fit, lather rinse, repeat except add weeping and panic attacks as the deadline approaches. I never learn.

What project of yours was the easiest writing of your life? And, flip-side, which one was the most like wrestling bears? (And could you tell before you started or did they turn on you, for better or worse?)

A GROWN UP KIND OF PRETTY was SO easy. At first. It had two narrators, Big and Mosey, and one was charming and falling in love for the first time in her life (at 45!) and one was fifteen and red hot hilarious mess, and I was just...having fun.

Lydia Netzer, a member of my writing group pointed out I was having...too much fun. She said to me, “Yeah this is funny, and charming....and absolutely heartless.” She said I was being a coward, letting only Big and Mosey speak. She said I was so scared of letting Liza speak that I had given her a stroke to shut her up.

She was right. As a writer, I am constantly interested in the finding the tipping point for grace, tracing the paths that lead even those farthest out in the black to redemption, in how ruined people living in a broken world model their imperfect version of sacrificial love. What is home, and what gets you there, and what do you do when you return to it and find it a smoking hole in the rubble? Can you remake it? Can you redefine it? What does it mean to experience transformative love, which in my books is often parental in nature rather than romantic. I had shut most of that up inside of Liza.

SO! I tore the book open, structurally, and let Liza speak. Then it went suddenly from being the easiest thing I had ever written to the hardest. I had to let Liza’s themes and Liza’s narrative infest the narratives charming Big and funny Mosey wanted to tell, letting the book have its underbelly.

It got hard because all at once I was writing about the things that drive me, that matter to me as a human being. I was writing a book that I loved instead of one that was ONLY fun. Then it was hard. But you know what? Hard is good. Sometimes the hard way leads to the thing you wanted all along.

New York Times Bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson lives in Georgia with her husband, their two children, and an ever-expanding cast of animals. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages, won SIBA’s novel of the year, twice been a #1 Book Sense Pick, and twice been shortlisted for the Townsend prize. She blogs twice a week at Faster Than Kudzu. She is the author of five novels, most recently A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty.