Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Author, Jonathan Schork, on his Award-Winning Book

HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA FOR YOUR AWARD WINNING BOOK? More Tales evolved out of my 2016 book, The Love of Simon Fox, in which a little girl wanders into an enchanted wood and befriends an unpopular fox, and the rest of his animal friends become her family. It seemed to me there were a few characters with whom we hadn’t spent enough time in “Simon Fox”, and I really didn’t want to be finished yet with the enchanted wood, so I wandered back in and wrote an eclectic series of stories.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LINE FROM YOUR AWARD WINNING BOOK AND WHY? I’m not really a “superlative” kind of guy—how does one pick a favorite anything?—but at this moment the first line that came to my mind was from the opening of chapter XI, Evan Herdman Comes Calling: “Time passes fast and slow in the enchanted wood, & answers seldom the same demands placed on it in the wide world beyond. Seasons come and seasons go, but the strange magic that ordained Penelope forever a child ordained also that the wide world should hurry by while the forest lagged. ” The other end of the same chapter offers an equally compelling sentence: “He stood there between loneliness and a gypsy band, leaning on a stick given him by a friendly hedgehog, making some internal calculus about magic and roads not taken.”
WHICH OF YOUR CHARACTERS FROM YOUR AWARD WINNING TITLE DO YOU BELIEVE IS MOST LIKE YOU AND WHY? I used to say that Martin Badger was my avatar from “Simon Fox”—he’s a little bit rough around the edges, and not necessarily given to company, but he is courageous, loyal, and generous. In “More Tales”, though, I would have to say probably Cedric Marmot (that’s mar-MOH—he prefers the French pronunciation): he’s a bit fussy and fusty, loves cooking and dining, prefers his own company, and often acts the role of the voyeur: watching others and writing down their stories in his copious collection of books.
WHAT MESSAGE DO YOU HOPE READERS WILL GLEAN FROM YOUR AWARD WINNING BOOK? I’m not a lector, but I would be quite happy if my readers discerned in my characters courage, loyalty, kindness, & generosity. I suppose I’d also be quite pleased if my U.S. readers could tidy up their language a little: I’m so tired of hearing loud, profanity-laced screeds everywhere I go. Surely we can do better…
WHAT/WHO INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A WRITER? I was a precocious reader—my first book was an abridged edition of Melville’s Moby Dick, and I was six—so I’ve understood that words have meaning and gravity for as long as I can remember. There’s just never been a time when I haven’t scribbled in notebooks.
WHO HAS HAD THE GREATEST INFLUENCE ON YOUR WRITING STYLE? There are several authors who’ve had an influence on my writing—Dickens, Carroll, Kipling, Dinesen, Fitzgerald, & Tolkien—who gave me deep insights into the world-building of a good story and an elegant turn of phrase. Of course, these are all authors with a terribly old-fashioned style, which might also be used to describe my own, but I am a classicist, and I am entirely unapologetic. The author who has had the single biggest impact on my writing (and my cognition, I should admit), however, is the late paleontologist Steven Jay Gould. What I find so compelling, even today, in his body of work, is not only his eloquence, but his capacity to blend a number of seemingly disparate threads or themes into an harmonious sum, with truly life-enlarging results. In my house, Gould is just about required reading.
TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A WRITER: I’m really at sixes and sevens here: there just doesn’t seem to be anything particularly funny or interesting about my writing experience. I suppose I could say that I’ve never been drunk or used drugs, and I find the propensity of writers to claim some special gift from the bottom of a bottle or a needle or a pipe to be almost as preposterous as it is pretentious. I prefer to keep my faculties about me, in spite of how tedious a habit that might seem.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR WRITING PROCESS: My writing process starts in my sleep: I’m a prolific and lucid dreamer and derive most of my inspiration from my dreams. Where my stories are concerned, I may spend quite a bit of time in a dream—several weeks or even months— experiencing it over and over again before I start writing it down. By then it has resolved itself into a narrative of extraordinary detail, and my relationship to the story is more scribe than story teller: I have only to copy down the words as they seem best to me (I’m a synesthete, so in addition to the meter and tone of my prose the shapes of the words and the eddies of sentences are immensely important to me). I hand-write everything in notebooks (which are piled up all over the studio) and type them when I’m satisfied with the hand-written text (I’m not a gifted typist, but my hand writing is atrocious, and it would be a fool’s errand to expect anyone else to be able to decipher it). When a rough draft is done, I print it and turn it over to my beta readers, maybe make a few adjustments, then hand it off to the editor.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST CHALLENGE AS A WRITER? Once again, I’m at a bit of a loss: I don’t really feel like I have challenges, per se. I suppose I could say that my stubborn adherence to unpopular, old-fashioned styles might be an impediment to my developing a larger audience, but I’m really just not as concerned about that as I am that I should give such audience as I have my best efforts. I’ll never be a rich author, but at least I won’t be an embarrassed one…
IF YOU COULD BE COMPARED TO A WELL-KNOWN AUTHOR WHO WOULD YOU MOST WANT THIS TO BE AND WHY? I suppose I’ll be content if someday I might be compared favourably to Isaac Asimov: he published prodigiously across an impossibly wide spectrum of magisteria, and left an indelible mark on the literary world. I’d be a fool to aim that high, but I’ve at least got a start: I’ve published plays, screenplays, short story collections, YA feminist fantasy, children’s literature, philosophy, & art, and I’m presently working on more of the above, as well as science fiction, history, political science, and opera.
HOW DID YOU FIND AN AGENT / GET PUBLISHED? I wrote my first novel—an unpublished fantasy closer to George R.R. Martin than Tolkien (it merged better with my ancient and medieval history studies) when I was sixteen. My high school English teacher, whom I later married, tried unsuccessfully to shop it around. As a child of an alcoholic, I was accustomed to rejection and disappointment: undeterred, I kept writing, and finally found a micro-publisher in 2004 for my short story collection. I hit a drought for another decade, but finally got noticed after my 2015 self-published Fearless Inanna (my publisher subsequently reprinted a 2nd addition with editorial improvements). It’s a hard business, and the two gifts that made it possible for me are a thick skin and a certain relentlessness.
CAN YOU OFFER ANY ADVICE FOR WRITERS ON HOW BEST TO PROMOTE THEIR BOOK? I can make a suggestion on what not to do: however attractive it might seem to try book fairs, unless you’re affiliated with a publisher or a writing cooperative of some kind, it’s going to be an expensive and largely unproductive exercise. A writer would be better off investing that money in some postage and entry fees in book award competitions, and maybe in some advance copies to local media: that kind of attention is much more productive in getting eyes on one’s book.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST LITERARY ACCOMPLISHMENT? I think my greatest literary accomplishments are ahead of me: my nine volume ancient history book will probably be my most prominent achievement. That notwithstanding, I feel a sense of satisfaction with each new title: however humble the project, there’s something immensely satisfying about being able to deliver a new book to my mum, or my girlfriend, or my brother. I’m not a prideful man, but I love being able to do what I do, and I love that it pleases them.
WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST LITERARY ASPIRATIONS? Well, I think I just answered this one: that nine volume ancient history text will likely be the work that distinguishes me as an author, if anything does. Beyond that, I just want to be able to keep writing, and I see no reason that I won’t be able to do that until I’m a little old author.
TELL US SOMETHING PEOPLE MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU THAT THEY MIGHT FIND INTERESTING: I’m not just an author, I’m one of those annoying polymaths: I’ve also won awards for sculpture, photography, painting, & volunteering with people with HIV; distinguished myself in couture, cuisine, and cinema; held patents on several electronic devices for alternative energy systems; formerly played in the Giri Mekar Balinese Gamelan Orchestra and presently compose a neo-classical opera; am building a proposal for an ISS experiment for NASA; work on my own vehicles; & renovated a condemned house into my current studios, which I share with a stray cat, a stray girl, and my mum. My optometrist likes to say I’m larger than life; I prefer to say I’m just large enough…
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE WITH OUR READERS? I have a small, devoted fan base with whom I correspond (I subscribe very strongly to the notion that, if a person has taken the time to write me, the very least I can do is pen a short note of thanks). If you should find it desirable to write me, whether you’re a writer or a reader, you should please feel welcome.
WHAT OTHER BOOKS HAVE YOU PUBLISHED?  The board of directors at my publisher have taken an eccentric position on whence to purchase my books, and because I concur, I’ll share it here: it’s easy and cheap to buy from Amazon, but easy and cheap are not necessarily what’s best for our community or our world. We encourage our readers to buy from their local, indie book sellers, and, in the absence of that option, at least from something like Barnes & Noble. 
You may also contact my publisher, SM~ARC, inc., at artrencollab@gmail.com to request a copy (an author inscription—if this is important to you—is available via this avenue of purchase). We’re also big advocates of public libraries: if a book costs too much, don’t buy it: borrow it. 
Following is a list of my other titles: 
The Love of Simon Fox, SM~ARC, inc., 2016
A View from the Tendo, SM~ARC, inc., 2016
DO YOU HAVE ANY NEW BOOKS IN THE WORKS? An illustrated sequel to 2015’s Fearless Inanna, tentatively titled The Way to Atlantis. A political science book tentatively titled Hamilton’s Electors is due out later in 2019, though we expect a possible delay. A children’s picture book called The Birds in My Back Yard, with amusing verse about the birds and eccentric, original water colours, is expected sometime in the summer of 2019. A science fiction book set in the 42nd century is progressing slowly. The opera and the ancient history book are too far away yet to warrant adding to this list.
Advance copies for The Way to Atlantis should be available soon, with a general release soon after. Set in the ancient Mediterranean ca 2800bce, it will follow our young heroine Inanna on a quest across the ancient Mediterranean (including a renewed acquaintance with her friend Shiduri the witch, and a stop on ancient Crete under the guidance of three old-world goddesses to rescue the city of Atlantis from a sea dragon (with quite unexpected results—or maybe not…). As above, it will be available through local indie book sellers, Barnes & Noble, public libraries, and the publisher, SM~ARC, inc..

LITERARY CLASSICS Book Awards & Reviews International Book Awards • Top Honors Youth Book Awards • Seal of Approval http://www.clcawards.org

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