EXCITEMENT!!! That’s what we feel about Jack Wetta’s debut novel, If Jack’s in Love, and we are certain that after you read the following interview by SLR contributor Rhett DeVane, you’ll be laughing so hysterically you will order this Read of the Month immediately.
SLR: Is there an intended message in If Jack’s in Love that you wish readers to grasp?
SW: I never write with a message, and If Jack’s in Love doesn’t have one. If I believed a novel with a message could have some salutary impact on the world I’d feel more of a duty to moralize. Writing is a joyful experience. Even when I’m writing about murder and social injustice I’m doing it out of joy. Why did I write If Jack’s in Love? I don’t know, except to reinvent my boyhood, a fun time full of mystery and promise. I wrote the sentence “I think I belonged to the last generation that could play outside,” and took it from there.
SLR: What is your greatest challenge as a newly-minted published author?
SW: I’m a loner, and I’d prefer to write quietly while someone else promotes my work. I don’t want fame or celebrity. I would have enjoyed these when I was in my twenties, but it’s late in the day now, and I go to bed early.
SLR: What would you consider your greatest asset and how do you use this in your work?
SW: I’m improvisational, and I never pay much attention to literary dogma or theories about writing. I enjoy knowing them, but I don’t let them guide me. Each novel I write I approach as an individual task and trial. Every novel, every story, is experimental. There is no such thing as literature that isn’t experimental, outside of purposely formulaic and generic works.
SLR: Jack, the 12-year-old protagonist, faces pivotal issues under abnormal circumstances. How much of Jack’s experiences are based on reality, yours or someone you know?
SW: Jack’s situation is entirely made-up, although he’s a composite of many kids I knew when I was growing up, both in and outside the neighborhood. In some ways he’s based on me, although I never had to deal with the social opprobrium. I saw other kids who did, and often wondered how I would have handled it. Jack is a far better kid than I was. I did have some of his sweetness, but I could turn that on and off, and there was another side of me more like Stan. I had a mean streak. Incidentally, my brother is six years older than I, and we were roughly the same ages as Jack and Stan in 1967. My brother was a good boy. He never murdered anyone.
SLR: Are there any new authors that have grabbed your attention? What are you currently reading?
SW: Hilary Mantel’s books are wonderful, and I liked Gary Schteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story. I’m always eager to read Stephen Millhauser’s work. Two writers getting up in age and who have created an impressive body of work are Evan Connell and Pete Dexter. Dexter’s best books, like Deadwood, God’s Pocket and Spooner, are comic masterpieces. William Vollman’s books tend towards bloat, but his Argyll is one of the great works of recent American fiction.
SLR: What do you find most frustrating/fulfilling about your writing?
SW: Very little about writing is frustrating. The fulfillment comes from doing what I love to do most. I never have writer’s block, and I’m always in the mood to write. I can’t understand writers who profess writing to be painful, or complain they haven’t enough time. I’ve structured my life so that I always have time to write. That means I don’t have kids and I don’t make any money. Which is fine, I hate work anyway.
SLR: What lies ahead for you? Tease us with a tidbit or two from your work(s) in progress.
SW: I’ve recently revised an existential rockabilly epic that almost got published a few years ago. I have two other novels waiting to be dusted off. One concerns a man who gets away with a murder he committed when he was a teenager, only to get involved later in life with the murdered man’s daughter. Another involves a hostage situation in a Louisiana hurricane. It’s a comedy of apocalypse, pitting William Blake’s vision of a heavenly, high-art Jerusalem against a more fundamentalist conception of the end-times as the destruction of all that exists.
SLR: What “best advice” would you share with other aspiring novelists?
SW: Write every day. Write for hours every day. Practice your writing as a concert violinist practices the violin. Bring that kind of dedication to it. You don’t have to be especially talented or brilliant to write, only determined to the brink of insanity. And read as much as you write.
SLR: Do you have anything specific you would like to tell your readers?
SW: Virginia is the south.
SLR: Thank you, Stephen, for taking time to answer a few questions. Your answers are as insightful and humorous as your prose, sir.