TMW has embarked on a series of weekend posts comprised of interviews of us blog writers (scroll down a couple posts to see the last two entries). Today, the esteemed Jack M. provides his perspectives on various writing and book-related matters.
Please note, Catdust respectfully takes exception to some of the comments in Question #7.
1. What form does your inspiration usually take? As in, do you usually start with a concept, a character, a plot, or something else?
The threat of a deadline is the usual source of inspiration, but I cultivate a backlog of ideas to pull from when I need to write. Some ideas begin with a phrase – Death & Taxis, for instance – whereas Frank’s Social Experiment was inspired by a conversation with a friend about a what-if question: what if someone found a way to go literally months without social interaction? What would they be like after all that time?
2. Pick a favorite author, and tell me what you like most about their writing style.
Walker Percy conveys subtle humor into his writing, and he can turn simple topics into entertaining reading. cf his essay, “Bourbon, Neat”
3. What are two or three writing traits that you most want to emulate? What are two or three writing traits that you most want to avoid?
Traits of Percy I most want to emulate? Humor, and the ability to flank comprehensive barriers – or instance, to describe a concept such as biblical love, but in a way that moves past the cultural clichés associated with that word and into something that breaks through to understanding by use of a different vehicle – often fiction.
Avoidable writing traits in general? Loquaciousness and sentimentality and reliance upon convention. I haven’t read enough Percy to have identified traits of his I’d want to avoid.
4. Name a book that you didn’t expect to enjoy, but did.
Rob Bell’s Love Wins – or at least, I read the first several chapters and enjoyed them more than I expected.
5. Do you think the book is always better than the movie? If so, why so, and if not, why not?
No, but I can’t think of an example that would settle the matter.
6. What is your favorite piece you’ve written for TMW, and why?
“My Neighbor,” because it was something I didn’t write for myself, but in honor of a friend.
7. What is your least favorite piece you’ve written for TMW, and why?
“George and the Werewolf,” because the subsequent authors in the story ruined the concept! 😉 But the story is now attached to my name and reflective of my writing ability.
My least favorite pieces are my movie reviews because they were cheaply written and of limited use. I don’t read movie reviews, and find that most people don’t – the level of critical discernment isn’t there: I’m not going to read a 600 word essay to decide whether to watch Hot Rod. Instead, I’m going to spend 30 minutes surfing Netflix before choosing Hot Rod because the trailer looks dumb and it’s a 98% match. But I do read stories and come back to them.
8. What are you reading at the moment?
Also, Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Lost in the Cosmos by Walker Percy, and Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport.
9. What’s a book you’ve had on your shelf to read, but haven’t yet?
Worship Matters, by Bob Kauflin