Today I'd like to welcome Jake Kerr to the blog. Read on to find out more about him and how researching for a story can bring greater understanding.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on my first novel. It’s a contemplation of memory and how people’s memories are such powerful and yet inconstant things. What if a good memory is a false representation of a moment that was actually bad? Does one’s memory of the best moment of his or her life actually deserve that designation? By having my characters experience these things directly via an SF mechanism, I hope to address these and similar questions.
What's your pre-writing ritual?
You know, this is something that I would love to have. I love the calming power of ritual, and even something as simple as making tea, arranging a desk, and then closing my eyes for 60 seconds before writing would be a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, with the chaos in my life, I tend to just open the laptop and start typing. Even finding a quiet location is often a challenge. So my ritual is that I don’t have a ritual. I open the laptop, read the previous few pages I wrote before, and then continue.
What is one of the most surprising/interesting things you've discovered while doing research for a story?
It was perhaps not surprising so much as powerful and illuminating. I was researching a novel that would feature an emotionally abused woman, and as I read books on emotional abuse I saw things that were familiar in friends and learned the profoundly sad nature of women trapped in such a relationship. It was so painful that I ended up scrapping the novel. I just couldn’t do the character justice.
Tell me about your favorite story that you've published. What inspired it, and what does it mean to you?
My favorite story is probably the one that Lightspeed just purchased. It will be released in March. It’s titled “Biographical Fragments of the Life of Julian Prince,” and it was inspired by a story in a contest that I read. That story partially used an indirect story-telling method—a eulogy—to illustrate a character. I loved the idea of indirectly telling a story and doing it on both the personal level and the global level. In short, could I tell a story about a person’s life without any straight narrative really involving him at all, and—at the same time—tell the story of a global catastrophe that never actually addresses the catastrophe? In short, we are being given external fragments of a person’s life, and it is entirely about HIM, but by learning about him we learn about this global catastrophe. I’m very happy with the result.
You can have lunch with any writer, living or dead. Who would it be, and why?
I don’t know why, but I find this question really hard to answer. My first thought was Charles Dickens. I absolutely loved his characters and his novels are still some of my favorites. Then I thought Ray Bradbury, because I really aspire to be the writer he was. Then I considered maybe Cormac McCarthy, because I am in awe of his ability to carve a novel down to its essence. But wait! What about Stephen King? Or Edgar Rice Burroughs? So, in the end, I have to just say that I can’t answer this question as there are so many writers I would love to spend time with, I can’t just pick one.
What's one of the best novels and/or short stories you've read recently?
I am in awe of both “A Visit From the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan and “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green. Both of which I’ve read in the past month.
On the short story side, “The Waves” by Ken Liu is extraordinary. It was in the December Asimov’s, and there are so many things going on in that story. At a high level, his ability to use science fiction to examine the nature of creation and the nature of God is breathtaking, but then you look at what he actually DID in a novelette, and it shouldn’t really be possible. To take a personal story about a woman and her family and then extend that out to the distant distant future on a cosmic scale, and he pulls it off in a short story. Beyond that: The way he plays with point-of-view. It’s something a reader may not even notice, but his characters speak via a telepathic type device, and as a result the points-of-view move from character to character. Everyone is in everyone else’s head. But then when the protagonist decides to isolate herself, her interactions with everyone else are all from her point-of-view. It’s that rare story that is truly epic and yet thoroughly personal and executed with genius. Go out and read it.
Writing is a sedentary endeavor. What do you do to stay healthy and active?
Unfortunately, this is something I need to work on. About the most exercise I get is walking my dogs, which, while certainly not to be laughed at, is a far cry from a three mile jog.
You can find out more about Jake here.