Wednesday, February 20, 2013

20 Questions with Author Jack Remick

Jack Remick is a poet, short story writer and novelist. In 2012, Coffeetown Press published the first two volumes of Jack’s California Quartet series, The Deification and Valley Boy. The final two volumes will be released in 2013: The Book of Changes and Trio of Lost Souls. Blood, A Novel was published by Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press, in 2011.

 
Could you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
I’m a novelist, a poet, a short story writer, a screenwriter. I’ve been a musician (piano, violin, composition), a bus driver, a social worker, a university instructor. I speak a couple of languages other than English. Early on, I traveled a lot but now I don’t like to get too far from home. Home is the room I write in. I’ve spent a lot of time in Latin America. It turns out that a lot of my writing focuses on South American themes and ideas. My latest novel, Gabriela and The Widow features a 19 year old Mexican woman who takes the hard trip to El Norte where she becomes the caregiver for a 92 year old widow.

Describe your desk/workspace.
It’s a mess. It is always a mess. When I finish a novel or book I try to clean up some of the muck, but I look at each paper and tell myself that I know where it is and if I file it, I lose it. So I don’t file it. There are stacks of print-outs and copies of finished work. On the desk there are three computers, two printers, two backup drives (I’m obsessive about saving files so have never lost a byte…) and a separate flash drive for storing each project.  I guess you’d call it “creative chaos”.  The value of computers is that everything there is orderly. Everything is defined and easy to find so I don’t worry about the physical chaos. In this, computers are salvation. But be sure to keep a couple of external backup drives…you never know.

Do you have a favorite quote?
“When not writing I get weird.”

What are you currently reading?
In the last few months I’ve been engrossed in the new erotica that women writers are pumping out. There’s a real revolution going on there—women taking control of the language, taking control of their sex lives, rebelling against all the “don’t does” of prim and proper. I just read “Sex and Death in the American Novel” by Sarah Martinez. I just read a couple of Madison Montgomery’s erotic novelettes with her sexy protagonist, Virginia Templeton. On the other side, I’m reading older Don DeLillo novels such as Falling Man. There’s a lot to learn from DeLillo. It’s hard to stay current. I also continue to read in the heavy world of C.S. Peirce, Carl Jung, and Claude Levi-Strauss. They keep my mind on target—story, myth, how the brain works.

What is the best advice you've ever received?
Thom Gunn, the poet who wrote My Sad Captains told me once, when I was imitating every poet who ever went before me, that if I lived in another man’s universe it would always be smaller than the one I could create myself. That bit of advice kick started my creative writing mind. I took it to mean that I should build on the past, stand on the shoulders of giants but not let them limit who and what I could be.


If you could have coffee with anyone (living or dead, real or fictional), who would it be and why?
Hmm. I wrote a poem a while ago, “Chief Architects of the Modern World” that begins:
These are the big guys
The big guys who figured it all out
Figured out what glues one rock to the planet
Figured out why the Milky Way spins
Through time and space leaving no trail

The “Big guys” I refer to are Archimedes, Newton, and Einstein. So I guess my answer would be Archimedes. He was so close to understanding integral and differential calculus that if the Romans hadn’t killed him, Columbus probably would have flown to the New World. I’d like to talk to Archimedes, to have him tell me what he was thinking. 

What are your top three favorite books and why?
They’re not all novels, if that’s what you mean but right now I’m thinking a lot about Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.  Atwood is a seer who reads right into the heart of civilization. I also spend a lot of time in Claude Levi-Strauss’s Mythologiques because a writer needs to have a solid understanding of anthropology and myth. Finally, Lynn Margulis’s Acquiring Genomes is a terrific book that helps me see how Life (with a capital L) isn’t defined solely as human. Very humbling to think that the bacteria in your body have been there from the beginning.

What was your favorite book as a child and why?
To be honest with you, I don’t remember any books from my childhood. Music was my art from the time I was 5. I played the piano early but I don’t remember learning to read either words or music. My reading life really didn’t start until I was in high school where I discovered Albert Camus’s The Stranger and Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil. Of course I didn’t understand Camus, Nietzsche or Existentialism until later, but they were foundation authors for me.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Quirk? Being a writer is quirky in a culture that worships glitz and media superstars. You think about it—sitting alone in a room with your only friend a computer and a printer stirring up worlds of imaginary creatures and making them talk. Yeah. Being a writer is about as quirky as it gets.

Do you write full-time or part-time?
My writing consumes my life so I guess I’ll say full-time. By that I mean my days are structured and organized around writing. Just about everything I do feeds into the writing. You can’t spend twenty hours a day at it because you have to eat and shop and even sometimes talk to other people—my wife insists on having dinner together every night.

If you could do anything in the world, what would it be and why?
Tough question because it’s a big wide world full of all kinds of challenges. Right now the practical thing would be to find a way to think books into existence without having to write them on a machine.

What is the craziest thing you ever did? This could be as a writer or any other time in your life.
A few years ago I sold everything I owned and ran off to South America for a year. I traveled with a Chilean ex-pat, Ramon Barrientos. We lived “off the land” so to speak because Ramon was a super-psychopathic con-man. He taught me a lot about lying and cheating and using people and all of that comes into my work. Without Ramon and that year in a time of violence, my writing would, more than likely, be pretty bland.

Did you feel like a celebrity when you held your first published book?
No. Not at all. My first book was an experimental novel called The Stolen House. It was published by Pig Iron Press in the early days of the small press revolution. We wanted to be as subversive as possible in the process of building what was called the “counter-culture” so celebrity was the farthest thing from my mind. Revolution and redefinition of art and writing were the goals. We didn’t succeed in wiping out popular culture but Pig Iron Press still lives. For several years, I wrote a fifty page novella every three months for Pig Iron.

If you could have a star on Hollywood Blvd, who would you want to have your star by? This can be an actual star on Hollywood Blvd. or someone you just admire.
I don’t know if Hampton Fancher, who wrote the screenplay for Bladerunner, has a star there, but if he does, I’d like to share space with him. In fact, I wouldn’t mind just breathing the air Fancher breathes for a while because some of that genius has to be in the breathing.

Is there anything in your life you wish you could do over and why?
No. I am the result of all my mistakes. Here I am. I know I can’t rewrite my past, but I can use all of my misdirections to create fiction that has some meaning. I think the quest for meaning is the deepest human drive. In the end, you want to be more than just meat and bone. You want to have a legacy. I think that’s why we have children. Writers have books.

Who has been your biggest support or inspiration?
Support: My wife. Without her, I couldn’t do what I do. She’s a world class quilter—you can see her work at http://helenremick.com –who understands obsession, compulsion, and the drive to perfection. We co-exist in a world of art and artists.  

Inspiration: M.C. Escher, the man who taught us to see backwards—all those woodcuts were made in mirror image. Christine de Pisan, a poet working to find a place in a man’s world. Jack Moodey, a poet. I once asked Moodey if he’d ever written an epic. His answer: “Six lines or eight?” If that’s not a treatise on art, I don’t know what is. I can’t forget Natalie Goldberg and Robert J Ray. Natalie opens doors to the gifts of the unconscious and shows you it’s good to go deep. Bob Ray is a genius who understands the structure of story in ways no one else ever has. From these people, I derive not just inspiration, but a gentle quieting of the noise in the world. In the quiet, you find truth.

Could you share about any current writing projects?
I’m deep into The California Quartet  right now. Two novels, The Deification and Valley Boy are already out. I’m working with my publisher on the next two—The Book of Changes and Trio of Lost Souls. I like to work on multiple pieces so I’m also writing the back story for a novel with the working title Prisons of Desire. I know nothing about it yet, and the characters aren’t talking to me.
  
What would be the best way for readers to contact you?
I keep a couple of blogs and websites. http://jackremick.com is my “author site” with blurbs about all my novels. There’s an email connection on that page but you can reach me at jackremick@gmail.com

In addition, Bob Ray and I run http://bobandjackswritingblog.com. This blog holds everything I know about writing. It’s there for the taking if anyone wants to sample it. The latest posts are “Writing Tips for the Commited Novelist” and “ Story Development.” Bob Ray is a successful mystery novelist who knows all the secrets and is willing to share them.

Where can people find your books?
My publisher is Coffetown Press. All my novels are up on amazon.com as well as Barnes & Noble. There’s also a list of e-books on Smashwords.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?


The World of Ink Network is touring my contemporary women’s literary novel, Gabriela and The Widow published by Coffeetown Press throughout January and February 2013.



About the Book:
Through the intimate bond of a companion and benefactor, Gabriela reconciles the painful experiences of her youth as she is reshaped by the Widow, La Viuda. Together, day after day, night after night, La Viuda immerses Gabriela in lists, boxes, places, times, objects, photos, and stories, captivating and life-changing stories.  It seems Gabriela is not just hired to cook and clean; she has been chosen to curate La Viuda’s mementos while taking care of the old woman’s failing health. “As you grow thick, I grow thin,” says the widow, portending the secret of immortality that will overtake both women. 

ISBN: 978-1-60381-147-7
Publication Date: January 15, 2013

Places available for sale:
Gabriela and The Widow is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.com. After January 15, 2013, it will also be available in multiple eBook and 6x9 trade paperback editions on BN.com, the European Amazons and Amazon Japan.

Wholesale orders can be placed through info@coffeetownpress.com  Baker & Taylor or Ingram. Libraries can also purchase books through Follett Library Resources or Midwest Library Service.


You can find out more about Jack Remick, his books and World of Ink Author/Book Tour at http://tinyurl.com/akw7kk6

Follow Jack Remick at
Author page: http://jackremick.com
Twitter: @jackremick
Publisher Website: http://CoffeetownPress.com

To learn more about the World of Ink Tours visit http://worldofinknetwork.com  
 

1 comment:

  1. Hello World of Ink: thank you for hanging this interview on your wall. I hope a few passers-by check in and leave a comment or two.

    ReplyDelete