Author Q&A: Jason Fisk
If you could cook dinner for any author, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you make?
I am a huge fan of Miriam Toews. I would love to have dinner with her and, like a leech, I’d pick her brain about her writing process and ask for advice; however, my cooking is not nearly as awesome as her writing, so I’d ask her what she wanted to eat, and then I’d practice making said meal until it was go time, and, realistically, I’d probably mess the meal up and end up ordering out.
What scares you the most about the writing process? How do you combat your fears?
I think I have a huge case of imposter syndrome. I wish I could say that I combat that by putting my head down and continuing to write despite my insecurities, but sometimes it gets the better of me.
Who is your biggest literary crush, author or character?
I love the character Jenny Fields from John Irving’s The World According to Garp. She is a badass who can do it all.
What books are on your nightstand?
There are two books on my nightstand right now. The first is This Bright River by Patrick Sommerville. I love his work on Station 11 and other shows, so I grabbed his novel to read.
The other book on my nightstand is Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. I haven’t read it, and I probably never will. My sister passed away at the age of 36, and it was her favorite book, so by not ever reading it, I feel like there’s something that I can still learn about her, even 10 years later. I find it strangely comforting.
Favorite punctuation mark? Why?
I love the ellipsis. I think it invites engagement from the reader. It kind of forces them to fill in the blanks…
What book were you supposed to read in high school, but never did?
The assignment was to independently read a Shakespeare play and do a report on it. I was a lazy high-school student who avoided work whenever possible, so my choice was Shakespeare’s King John. I picked that one because I figured it was one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays, and there was a pretty good chance that my teacher had not read it. I was right!
If you could write an inspirational quote on the mirrors of aspiring writers, what would you write?
"You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it." - Octavia E. Butler
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
It energizes me. I get in the zone, and I lose track of time when I’m writing.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I think aspiring writers don’t realize how much time and energy it takes to write. Writing is a craft with limitless room for improvement. If you want to write, you’d better be prepared to never be satisfied.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
I have to be careful of what I read while I am writing fiction because it frequently seeps into my writing, and the writing ends up feeling forced and lifeless.
Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
I usually do not have reader’s block. I do, sometimes, have difficulty figuring which book to read from my list of to-read books.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
I believe that it’s possible, but not the norm.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Ben Tanzer comes to mind. Through Ben, I have met a lot of other awesome writers from Chicago: Mark Brand, Joseph G. Peterson, Peter Anderson, Giano Cromley, and Jerry Brennan to name a few. For me it’s nice to know that there are like-minded people out there.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I want each of my books to stand on its own. Honestly, I cringe when I read my past work.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Buying a computer solely for my writing was the best money I’ve ever spent as a writer.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
This is a surprisingly difficult question for me to answer. There are so many more authors who I liked at first, but I’ve grown to dislike over the years than there are authors who I have grown to like. I think Stephan King might be the best answer to go with here. For me, he is so hit or miss that it took a while for me to find something in his repertoire that I liked.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I came home from school one day to find that my younger sister had ratted me out for swearing at school. I got in a lot of trouble for that.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Dave Newman’s Raymond Carver Will Not Raise Our Children is an underappreciated favorite of mine.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
A seagull. They are capable of beauty, but they also spend most of their time fighting for scraps and picking through the trash.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
Not all characters in The Craigslist Incident were based on real people (I need some plausible deniability, here), but for those characters who are loosely based on real people, I will defer to Anne Lamont: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
What does literary success look like to you?
Every time I achieve a literary goal, I set another one. I just keep plugging away. I don’t think I will ever feel successful.
What’s the best way to market your books?
I believe that after all has been said and done, the best way to market a book is through word of mouth; therefore, I believe it is important for me to get my book out to as many readers as possible.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I am petrified that I will get something wrong, and that mistake that will take the reader out of that fragile, magic, fiction bubble that I worked so hard to create.
What did you edit out of this book?
I think a better question for me would be: What have you edited into your novel? For years, my focus was poetry, so I focused on condensing a narrative into as few words as possible, and, unfortunately, that habit followed me into my prose writing. When I worked with the Unsolicited editing team, I found that I was adding scenes to the plot rather than cutting scenes.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I think I would be working somewhere in the field of psychology. I also love teaching, so I would for sure be teaching.
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