Author Interview #5, with Tommy Jonq!
Describe yourself in 5 words:
TJ: “Fiddling while the Empire burns.”
Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work vs. your own:
TJ: In terms of personal “taste,” in terms of reading something for pure fun as much as for looking for ideas or techniques to steal, I just adore Flannery O’Connor and her way of demonstrating her faith in the Calvinist doctrine of Total Depravity through the endearing absurdity of her characters.
Enoch knew the time had come when something had to be done; he didn’t know what was going to happen in his room, but when it happened, he didn’t want to have the feeling that the moose was running it. The answer came to him fully prepared: he realized with a sudden intuition that taking the frame off him would be equal to taking the clothes off him (although he didn’t have on any) and he was right because when he had done it, the animal looked so reduced that Enoch could only snicker and look at him out the corner of his eye. —from Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor.
I identify so strongly with the character of Enoch Emery that I based the first-person narrator of the Forty Days cycle of stories on him to a great extent:
I was sure that loving Sallie Mae could be no sin. I loved her. The Word. I knew it with the sudden shock of comprehension a baby feels when it recognizes itself in the mirror. I heard my own voice talking to Sallie Mae. “O is the middle word in Love.” I had trouble speaking, my tongue gluey with jam, sticking to my teeth. Thick with crumbs. “The big O.” —from Forty Days by Tommy Jonq.
Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:
TJ: Before the advent of the Internet and Print On Demand, there certainly was a Writing versus Publishing war. In 2000, my first novel, Gemini Tiger, would have cost 25,000 to 30,000 dollars to produce, print, and market myself. So far, I have spent 25 to 30 dollars. Ditto for Forty Days. Nowadays, there is no excuse for not publishing your own books, except laziness. Furthermore, there is simply no need for corporations like Bantam or Dell or Random House to even exist, let alone their medieval publication rights contracts. The 20th century is over, and it’s time to get over it.
What is your definition of “good writing”?
TJ: Good writing is writing that reaches its intended audience. I like to make people laugh. I recently got an email from a customer who read Forty Days on a train from Omaha to Chicago. He told me people kept staring at him because he kept laughing out loud for no apparent reason. That’s good writing.
Please share your #1 tip for writers:
TJ: Write. The best way to learn is to simply copy writers you like. Steal their ideas, their techniques, their style. And write, write, write.
Thanks to Tommy Jonq for stopping by to chat!