Taking a break from reviewing, Jason Quinn Malott, author of THE EVOLUTION OF SHADOWS has graciously answered a few questions for us.
CW: When did you start writing Evolution of Shadows?
JQM: Usually, I mark the beginning of The Evolution of Shadows as a short story called “Curse Softly to Me” that I wrote in the spring of 2000. That was the first appearance of Gray and Lian; however, I’d wanted to write a story set in Bosnia since 1995. The two parts didn’t meld together until maybe mid summer during the Naropa Summer Writing Program. Once the two parts were fused I had the rough draft finished just after Christmas of 2000.
CW: What is a typical day of writing like for you?
JQM: I wish I could say that I am able to support myself with writing or a part-time job thus allowing me the luxury of writing for hours at a time several days a week, but that’s not the way it is. Except for a few bouts of unemployment over the years, I’ve worked full-time jobs since I finished my undergraduate degree. So, I squeeze in an hour, maybe an hour and a half every Monday through Friday starting between 5 or 5:30 am then go to my day-job for 8 hours. If I’m not too tired or running around taking care of errands, I try to spend my evenings revising, or reading, or just sitting around thinking (the most underrated and misunderstood part of being a writer). On the weekends I try to spend two or three hours a day before errands, laundry, chores, family over take everything. It makes for some tough going and slow progress.
CW: Do you think travel is a critical element to being a good writer?
JQM: My first summer at Naropa there was a panel discussion with Robin Blaser, Robert Creeley, and Michael Ondaatje and one of them (maybe Ondaatje) said “you have to travel to find your home.” I’m looking forward to finding my home someday. But if travel were a critical element to being a good writer then we’re immediately narrowing our literary gene pool to those people who have the freedom and/or money to travel. Every person I know who “travels” comes from a family with more money than my family ever had, somehow managed to avoid massive student loan debt, or landed a job right out of college that paid them well enough that they could live like a grown up. But that’s the long answer.
The short answer is that even if you stay in one place you only have to open your eyes, your ears, and your heart, and the world will come to visit you.
CW: As a member of mySpace, Facebook, and Twitter, how do you think social networks are changing the way writers connect with their readers?
JQM: In some ways, I think it’s breaking down that shroud of mystery and shaman-like wisdom that used to surround great writers. I think that’s both good and bad. A book is a pretty personal thing to put in your head. Sometimes, it’s comforting to feel like you have a personal connection with the creator of the book that enters you. Social media provides that. However, it means the writer has to have that internal editor turned on a lot more and that, I fear, might damage the writing. Most good writers will tell you that the key to getting the truth down in a story comes from killing your internal editor/critic, that nagging super ego that keeps telling you it’s not nice to say such things about people even if it is true.
The great writers of the past were able isolate themselves pretty deeply and to put down that mental filter everyone has to manufacture in order function appropriately in civilized society. By shutting themselves away and shedding the cloak of civility writers could dredge up those deep truths we’re afraid to admit to in public. To do that a writer sometimes has to have a bad day where he is a complete ass to everyone around him, rude to children, and mean to dogs. In isolation the number of people who see that is limited. But have a bad day like that on Facebook or on Twitter - like Alice Hoffman did recently - and that whole shroud of mystery and awe around the writer is lost and they become nothing more mysterious than a guest on the Jerry Springer show.
And no one I know likes those people.
CW: Favorite things to do besides writing:
JQM: I love baseball. I’ve been wishing there was an amateur adult baseball league here where I live so I could play. Instead, I watch the Cubs play on WGN whenever I can. Music is my other big love. I’m always looking for new music. If I weren’t a writer, I’d want to be a drummer, or a bass player in a rock band.
CW: Could you tell us a little about your next book?
JQM: The next book is tentatively titled “By The Still, Still Water” and it’s a multi-generational family drama set during a week-long family reunion. When a stranger shows up to the Goodson family reunion looking to hear the story of how his father died during the Korean War, the stoic patriarch of the Goodson family, Ben, decides to finally tell the tragic and horrible story of the events he’s been trying to forget for 50 years. His story also begins to shift his family’s perception of him and of themselves and how they became the people they are. It’s kind of about how the mutation of memory and secret history shape us as much as the things we know (or think we know) about ourselves and our origins.
A very special thank you to Jason, for taking the time to answer these questions!