Jay Lake: Writer

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[Interviews]

[interviews] Reader interview of me

A week ago I posted a call for interview questions in comments [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]. Some were profound, some were funny, one or two were snarky. Nonetheless, I have answered them all.

Here under cut for reading mercy are the answers:

Andrew Nicolle: What’s your take on the ‘eBook revolution’? Do you see yourself experimenting with eBooks in the future? [ WordPress ]

Jay: I’m as baffled by ebooks as everybody else. Which is to say, I see their popularity and sales numbers rising sharply. I read them myself. But the business model behind, from the writer’s perspective, is still very murky. What I do know is the editorial disintermediation going on in ebooks does not feel like a good thing to me. Sure, we can all self-publish, but who is going to comb through 10,000 self-published fantasy novels in Amazon’s Kindle store to find the good ones? Everyone says, “word of mouth”, but how do you get discovered in the first place?

As for me, I’ve been slowly putting short fiction up through Smashwords for a while. And Tor has been bringing my titles for them out. So I’m in the pond. I’m just not advocating publicly yet.

[info]brownkitty: Would you be willing to tell us about the process of becoming father to [info]the_child? [ LiveJournal ]

Jay: That’s a complicated question. In simple terms, back in 1996 her mother and I decided to adopt. We wound up in the Chinese adoption process for a number of reasons, two of the big ones being that I was born and raised there, and that those adoptions are irreversible. At the time there had been several fairly high profile court cases where the birth mother had changed her mind or claimed coercion, and children who had never known any family but their adoptive parents were taken out of their lifelong homes.

The process itself was legally clean and clearcut, but complex. It took us the better part of the year to run all the traps on US and Chinese paperwork, then in the fall of 1998 we traveled to China and were united with her. We adopted her there under Chinese law, then came back and readopted her in Texas under US law.

Those few words, of course, give short shrift to a multitude of emotions and experiences, but those are the salient points.

[info]wendigomountain: Jay, you’ve worked up quite a reputation for yourself with your blog and with your writing, but have you ever gotten “starstruck” yourself, and if so, what/who got you feeling like a handflapping fanboy? [ LiveJournal ]

Jay: Oh, absolutely. Most recently on meeting Chip Delany at Readercon this past summer. I was absolutely stonkered, he was gracious. Gene Wolfe did it to me the first few times I met him as well. It’s that sense of meeting someone who’s writing still makes me feel like a young fanboy. I’m a lot more blase about meeting writers whose work I found as an adult, and especiall as a writer in my own right.

[info]la_marquise_de_: You have great hair, at whatever length. But what has led you to tend to wear it long? (The marquis has had long hair since he was 19, and is very clear about why he likes it that way.) [ LiveJournal ]

Jay: I love long hair on myself and others. It’s that simple. I like the way it looks, I like the way it feels. And having one’s long hair played with is one of life’s truly great sensual pleasures.

Ulysses: A handful of author/reader-related questions:
What word do you hate to use?
What’s your favorite quote from another’s work?
What’s your favorite quote from your own work?
What inspired you to start writing? What happened that brought about the moment when you said, “I’m going to do this?”
What’s your favorite book?
[ WordPress ]

Jay:
Word I hate: Frenemy.
Quote from another’s work: “We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.” — Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead;
or possibly “Man is where the falling angel meets the rising ape.” — Terry Pratchett, Hogfather
Quote from my work: Don’t really have a favorite.
Inspiration: Reading Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun at age 20 and thinking, “You’re allowed to do that?” It was my Book of Gold.
Favorite Book: Either Book of the New Sun or Fifth Head of Cerberus, both by Gene Wolfe.

David: What “how to write” books helped you the most? [ WordPress ]

Jay: I’m an outlier on this one. I’ve never put much stock in “how to write” books, and have in fact read very few of them. The only one I ever applied to my work in any conscious way was the late Ken Rand’s The Ten Percent Solution. And that’s more of a “how to edit/revise” book.

[info]adelheid_p: You mentioned Gene Wolfe in your answers to the last question regarding your favorite book and referenced his use of language. Is there anyone else whose use of language you admire? [ LiveJournal ]

Jay: Oh, a number of writers. Chip Delany, for one. Karen Joy Fowler. But there’s also some very elegant writers in my generation. Daniel Abraham comes to mind. K.J. Bishop. Jeff VanderMeer can be astonishing. Jeffrey Ford’s economy of prose has a deceptively powerful beauty as well.

[info]xjenavivex: Is there a novel that you’ve avoided writing at any point because you didn’t feel you had the skills to tackle it at that moment in your career? If so, what did you do about it then and did you work to write it later? [ LiveJournal ]

Jay: Absolutely. Original Destiny, Manifest Sin, my Old West/alternate history/fantasy novel, which I got about 100 pages into some five or six years ago, then utterly chickened out. I realized the ideas and narrative structure were too much for me. I shelved it until I felt like I’d become a better writer. Now, it’s my next project on deck after Sunspin. I think I’ve grown in to being able to write that book. Ask me in a year or so if I’ve written it later.

[info]makoiyi: I often wonder how you manage to focus on your writing at all given what you are going through. I know with my own personal tragedy right now I find it extremely difficult to write. I realise that some people manage to use those emotions to enhance their writing but is this simply a matter of discipline with you or you simply can’t not write? [ LiveJournal ]

Jay: Discipline, for certain. I can’t not write not in the mystical or emotional sense of being possessed by a muse. Rather, I can’t not write because it’s a core part of my identity that I’ve spent two decades nurturing. But that does come down to discpline. I only stop writing when I’m completely cognitively overwhelmed by the chemotherapy.

Mark: Our family is considering an overseas job rotation of two or three years. At that point, we’d have a preschooler and maybe also a toddler. Do you think they’d still get something valuable from the experience, despite probably being too young to remember it? Also, any general advice on raising kids overseas, based on your own childhood or conversations with your parents? [ WordPress ]

Jay: Absolutely they’ll get something of value. At any age I think that exposure to other people, languages, cuisines, social habits broadens the mind. My earliest childhood in Africa at age 3 influences my writing today.

As for raising kids overseas, I don’t really know what to say. My own experiences were before the Internet and satellite TV and VCRs, so our exposure to American culture while we were overseas was a lot more minimal than it would be today. So I’d say make sure they have some access to the local culture and people, rather than wrapping them in a cocoon of Americanism. They’ll have their whole lives to be American, but only those few years to be part of that other place.

In that same vein, the best thing I can say is take them everywhere and do everything with them that you can in the country and region you’re living in. My parents did that for me.

[info]fledgist: Jay, you’ve done a decent job writing characters who are not only female, when you’re male, but females who are distinctly not of your culture. I am very impressed by this. How do you think yourself into their heads? [ LiveJournal ]

Jay: The irony of your question is of course that it certain corners of the blogosphere I am the poster boy for arrogant, hateful white privilege. That’s mostly from people who don’t know anything about me other than what they’ve been told, so it’s very easy to demonize me under those circumstances. Except for one or two rather deeply misguided people, I don’t believe that very many who have actually bothered to get to know me think of me that way.

In any case, it’s a hard challenge, writing the other. For me, the fact that I grew up outside of the American frame of reference is a big help. Likewise that my family is multiracial. And being enmeshed in the matrix of white, male privilege certainly means I have to attend to my defaults carefully, and turn away from them wherever possible. I’ve worked very hard to think my way into the heads of people unlike me, and doubt I will ever succeed fully and naturally. It won’t be for a lack of trying.

John: Why is there so much unnecessary sex in your stories? [ WordPress ]

Jay: Who says it’s unnecessary? For that matter, who doesn’t like sex?

Trey: Hmm.
I know you get angry over your situation from the blog posts. But despite that, you handle it with apparent grace and dignity. Not acceptance, but grace.
Me, I have a problem with anger and if you have any tips on how to handle anger, use it and get something positive from it, I’ll take ‘em.
[ WordPress ]

Jay: Anger is an emotion like any other, in my experience. The trick for me is to let it flow without lashing out in some way. It can inspire, motivate and illuminate as easily as it can harm. The classic ‘count to ten’ rule can help. Trying to never write emails or blog posts when I’m angry helps. Giving myself a day to get over things can help. What all of those have in common is the idea of a self-imposed timeout between experiencing the anger and reacting to it. Advice so basic as to be nearly useless, I know, but it it what works for me.

[info]mectech: Elseblog you have bravely shared how cancer played a significant role in the demise of your primary romantic relationship. It seems your other significant life relationships (specifically with B. & the family you were born into) have weathered the onslaught with much more success. I was wondering if you had thoughts on what factors might have influenced this outcome.LiveJournal ]

Jay: Well, no one has the option to walk away from being my parent/sibling/child. My primary relationship ended in part because the growing apart that happened when I was deep in chemo and post-chemo cancer stress and not focusing on the relationship, not providing much attention or support while simultanously being a great, yawning pit of neediness myself. She found other places to focus her attention, places that didn’t demand so much of her and gave more back to her in return. By the time I checked back in, it was too late to recover. (That’s grossly oversimplifying, of course, but it is essentially true, at least from my perspectve.) Any primary relationship can end that way, it doesn’t take cancer to sink the ship. Where as [info]the_child and my family have a lifetime’s investment in me. A much deeper investment than a few years of relationship time. For a family member, the option of walking away comes with a much higher cost than a simple romantic breakup. They don’t get to find another son/brother/father to attach to.

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