Interview with Jess Nevins

Jess NevinsJess Nevins’ story “The Student and the Rats” appears in The Clockwork Jungle Issue (#11).  He can be emailed at jjnevins@ix.netcom.com.

Did you ever want to write “just like” someone else?  Who?  Or was there any book that made you say “I can do better than this!”?

Oh, heavens, yes, to the first question. If I could write just one story with the ability to move others as Guy Gavriel Kay’s work moves me, or one story with the prose style of Iain Banks, or with the complete mastery of time and place of Patrick O’Brian, I would be able to die happy.

Do you have favorite characters?  Any characters, yours or others, are applicable.

At the moment, my favorite character is O’Brian’s Stephen Maturin. Melancholy, wry, bitter, and coldly savage when he needs must: he’s everything I am or want to be as a person!

Have you ever been disillusioned by a character or a book?

Oh yes. There’s one particular Fat Fantasy series that’s been running for several years now. Fans of the series—I was among them—wait eagerly for the new installment. The most recent book was so impenetrable, so self-indulgent, so hostile to explaining context or background to the reader, that I lost all affection, not just for the book, but for the series. (It doesn’t help that a recent encounter with the author, at World Fantasy, was less than pleasant).

How do you explain what writing is like?  Is it something that you think about?  Do you ever find yourself debating it with strangers?

Writing is like cooking. You spend enormous amounts of time and effort, often in physically uncomfortable circumstances, creating something that you know ahead of time will fail to live up to your conception of what it could and should be. What you create will be quickly consumed, and shortly after consumption, the person you are creating for will be asking when the next one will arrive.

If you could choose any five literary people — real or imagined, living or not, friends or otherwise — for a tea party… who would they be?  A night on the town, karaoke, whatever suits.

Chris Roberson, Cherie Priest, Warren Ellis, Ken Hite, and Hal Duncan. Conversation would flow easily, and it’d always be fascinating to listen to.

How did writing a theme story work out?   Is it more complicated than not having to adhere to a theme — or less?

For me, much less complicated. Having guidelines to adhere to made writing the story much easier.

What was the absolute worst piece of advice someone gave you about writing?

“Writing non-fiction will get you noticed just as much as writing fiction.” Ha. Ha. Ha.

Have you ever wanted to let your character[s] run your interview?

Nah—they’d end up saying something I’d have to defend. I have enough trouble with that as it is.

Is there something you do that no one ever asks you about?  This can be anything — something unusual you eat, playing poker as a day job, a hobby, whatever you like.

You mean, besides wearing the skin of insolent freshmen?

Particular favorites for books, movies, series, comics, blogs, etc.?

Favorite thing I’ve read recently is Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games, which I think is a masterpiece. I’ve been assured that my next favorite thing will be Roberto Bolano’s 2666.

Did you ever want to write “just like” someone else? Who? Or was there any book that made you say “I can do better than this!”?

Oh, heavens, yes, to the first question. If I could write just one story with the ability to move others as Guy Gavriel Kay’s work moves me, or one story with the prose style of Iain Banks, or with the complete mastery of time and place of Patrick O’Brian, I would be able to die happy.

Do you have favorite characters? Any characters, yours or others, are applicable.

At the moment, my favorite character is O’Brian’s Stephen Maturin. Melancholy, wry, bitter, and coldly savage when he needs must: he’s everything I am or want to be as a person!

Have you ever been disillusioned by a character or a book?

Oh yes. There’s one particular Fat Fantasy series that’s been running for several years now. Fans of the series—I was among them—wait eagerly for the new installment. The most recent book was so impenetrable, so self-indulgent, so hostile to explaining context or background to the reader, that I lost all affection, not just for the book, but for the series. (It doesn’t help that a recent encounter with the author, at World Fantasy, was less than pleasant).

How do you explain what writing is like? Is it something that you think about? Do you ever find yourself debating it with strangers?

Writing is like cooking. You spend enormous amounts of time and effort, often in physically uncomfortable circumstances, creating something that you know ahead of time will fail to live up to your conception of what it could and should be. What you create will be quickly consumed, and shortly after consumption, the person you are creating for will be asking when the next one will arrive.

If you could choose any five literary people — real or imagined, living or not, friends or otherwise — for a tea party… who would they be? A night on the town, karaoke, whatever suits.

Chris Roberson, Cherie Priest, Warren Ellis, Ken Hite, and Hal Duncan. Conversation would flow easily, and it’d always be fascinating to listen to.

How did writing a theme story work out? Is it more complicated than not having to adhere to a theme — or less?

For me, much less complicated. Having guidelines to adhere to made writing the story much easier.

What was the absolute worst piece of advice someone gave you about writing?

“Writing non-fiction will get you noticed just as much as writing fiction.” Ha. Ha. Ha.

Have you ever wanted to let your character[s] run your interview?

Nah—they’d end up saying something I’d have to defend. I have enough trouble with that as it is.

Is there something you do that no one ever asks you about?  This can be anything — something unusual you eat, playing poker as a day job, a hobby, whatever you like.

You mean, besides wearing the skin of insolent freshmen?

Particular favorites for books, movies, series, comics, blogs, etc.?

Favorite thing I’ve read recently is Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games, which I think is a masterpiece. I’ve been assured that my next favorite thing will be Roberto Bolano’s 2666.

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