Interview in support of ‘Martha Toole’

Did an interview to promote ‘Martha Toole’ today. I will share it here for anyone who is interested. It covered my fav topics – writing, craft, art. Let me know what you think. 

 

Jason Derr

https://www.facebook.com/events/517797875005430/?fref=ts

 

Shah Fazli

9 hrs · Düsseldorf, Germany

Jason Derr, Welcome to Spotlight Interviews, and thanks for joining, what is The Life and Remembrances of Martha Toole about, who is Martha Toole, is your book a fiction, it seems to do very well, what do people like about it, please? — with Jason Derr.

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Jason Derr Martha Toole is a book of magical realism. If you are familiar with the TV series ‘The Waltons’ the pacing and use of language is very similar to that – but with a ‘ghost story’ in it.
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Jason Derr But I should stress this is NOT a horror story. It is about a family putting up with the demands of an aging, elderly matriarch and then, after a visit to the family home place, are followed home by the ghost of her youth.
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Jason Derr At its heart the book is about memory, family, loss and aging.
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Jason Derr Martha Toole is the elderly matriarch – she is set in her ways, ancient and has strict rules on how the family is to behave. But when we meet the Ghost of her youth we get a glimpse into her soul, the journey from youthful to hopeful and the way in which youth grieves the future and age grieves the past.
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Jason Derr And yes, the book is doing well as far as reviews go. 4 or 5 5 star reviews so far.
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Will Westerfield
9 hrs

Do you often find yourself writing back stories that you then debate whether to incorporate into a novel?

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Jason Derr I would like to say yes, and going forward I would like to do that more. Mostly I have a rough sketch of who a person is and I then have to fill it in. I like making a decision about a role in the book and then seeing how it, all of a sudden, opens doors and closes doors for the story.
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Jason Derr I’ve been known to follow a vein of story, getting stuck and then chopping that off and restarting, chasing larger story veins
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Shah Fazli
9 hrs · Düsseldorf, Germany · Edited

How would your reader feel along the way by reading your story, scared, sorry, sad, or what, can you explain, how did you feel when writing it? — with Jason Derr.

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Jason Derr When writing it it felt – wonderful. It is the best writing of my life. It really says something about being alive and human.
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Jason Derr As for the reader – the story is slowly paced and they will be drawn into a lovely, if not lopsided, love story.
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Jason Derr But not just a love story between two people – a love story with family and history and memory
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Shah Fazli
9 hrs · Düsseldorf, Germany

Ok, thanks, so what is the main message in your story, do you intend to give a message to the readers, why did you write this book, apart from what inspired you, what was the aim of writing it?

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Jason Derr The main message of the book is that life is change – always becoming, always in progress. We are a process of the universe – we are the universe become aware of itself – and our goal is to be alive, now. And in that process we will age and change and become. As young people we will grieve and fear and get lost in the future and when we are elderly we will grieve the past – choices unmade, choices made, unrealized opportunities and missed epectations
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Jason Derr and as tragic and wonderful and awe/ful as that can be it is what it means to be human.
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Jason Derr One of my philosophies/theologies is ‘the holy mundane’ – the world is FULL, and OVERFLOWING with wonder and awe and magic and tragedy and heart break and most of us eat our chips and watch tv. The world has SO MUCH AWE AND WONDER we have become numb to it.
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Jason Derr I think Martha Toole is about living in a universe that is the ‘holy mundane’
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Jason Derr For those interested:http://www.amazon.com/The…/dp/B00IOW3ACQ/ref=sr_1_1…

The Life and Remembrances of Martha Toolewww.amazon.com
The Hammer family of Hammer Fields, Virginia, do not know what to expect when elderly matriarch Martha Toole comes for a visit. Only the eldest son, John David Hammer, a painter and lover of family history, seems to enjoy her presence. The family is thrown into deeper distress when, during a visi…

 

 

 

 

Shah Fazli
9 hrs · Düsseldorf, Germany

True, thanks, where does the story take place, and how does it start, it’s interesting to know what do you start with and how and where, does it start in an old house, or in a dark valley, or where?

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Jason Derr The story follows the Hammer family of Hammer Fields, Virginia (USA). Once they were the founders and power family of this area – then it had been a lush farming community and now its a sprawling suburb.
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Jason Derr The family has a certain since of loss – a loss of the land, of history etc. How can one own or sell land? The land contains our history.
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Dara Rochlin
8 hrs · Redondo Beach, CA, United States

What, if any, are your writing rituals?

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Jason Derr Well, mostly I clean my desk (I have a toddler, we keep moving things out of his reach and it ends up in my office corner)
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Jason Derr Then I make coffee and then I grab a moment here and a moment there between baths, feeding, playing etc
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Jason Derr At work when clients are asleep I like to do some work and I have a 30 min window before work where my time is not colonized and I try to get some stuff done then
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Dara Rochlin Paper/Pen/ Pencil or Laptop/Desktop?
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Jason Derr Laptop.
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Jason Derr And I have an old writing desk that belonged to my wifes step-grandfather. I LOVE anything with history to it.
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Jason Derr I also like playing with history and experience. The ‘homeplace’ in the story is based on this, a bit of my family history that has been in place for over a hundred years http://www.foothillsheritagefarm.com/

Foothills Heritage Farmwww.foothillsheritagefarm.com
Foothills Heritage Farm is a non profit, tax exempt corporation established to preserve the historic Benjamin Hubbard farm outside Moravian Falls in Wilkes County, North Carolina. The farm is located at 1640 Hwy 18 South Moravian Falls NC 28654.

 

 

 

Dara Rochlin
9 hrs · Redondo Beach, CA, United States

How did you get started writing magical realism?

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Jason Derr I wish I could answer that. I did ‘Boston 395’ as a entry for the 3-Day novel contest when i was at EWU. It was the edge of a story that was in me and I just went for it.
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Jason Derr In the end I messed up my entry form but came out of it with a manuscript that I spent years working on.
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Jason Derr I like literary fiction and I like ‘fantastic’ stories, but nothing bores me more than someone trying to recreate Tolkein.
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Jason Derr I think Kings ‘Dark Tower’ is the only original bit of fantasy writing i’ve like in years
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Jason Derr But…is ‘Little, Big’ fantasy or magical realism? Is ‘Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel’? These are ‘fuzzy edge concepts’ to say the least
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Shah Fazli
8 hrs · Düsseldorf, Germany · Edited

Thank you, is there any history in your book apart from where the book takes place, where does it end, what else do we read in the book from history, of that place or elsewhere, tell us a little, it is interesting?

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Jason Derr Bits of my family history is in the book – not directly, but as the DNA of the story. Martha Toole the Elder is very much my moms mother set in the world of my fathers family. John David has longings very much like mine and his journey is very much my reflection of wanting to be an artist and, now, pushing 40, being no longer sure what that means.
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Jason Derr As for where the book ends – it ends with heart break and loss. It ends with a dull ache of love lost and desired and the way in which is impregnates a life with meaning and wonder and awe and just a bit of sadness.
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Will Westerfield
8 hrs

Who are some of your biggest non-writer artistic influences?

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Jason Derr Oh Will Westerfield you devil you. Ok, musically – John Cage, Nico Muhly, Sarah Kirkland Snider (all classical or indie-classical), I also listen to The New Pornographers and the various solo members of that outfit. Love me some David Lynch but I haven’t watched movie in so long. I am digging ‘Hannible’ on TV and LOVED me some Battlestar Gallactica (when living in Vancouver, BC I went to church with a cast member as well)
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Jason Derr Visual art – well, I am biased. My sister Diane C Derr and my wife Erin Derr
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Jason Derr I think an artist like Nico Muhly – openly LGBT and openly Episcopal. Plus ‘speaks volums’ and ‘I drink the air before me’ were fantastic records – is an important one for our generation. Also I just think his work is mind blowing.
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Jason Derr Sarah Kirkland Sniders ‘penelope’ is AMAZING.
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Jason Derr My sister is a great artist, even if she doesn’t always tell the family about her work.
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Jason Derr Also – I have a weird fascination with the work of Vanilla Ice. One of the greats, one of the greats
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Jason Derr I like how in music we have ‘new music’ a blurring between high art, low art, rock and roll, classical and hip hop. We have julliard trained dudes doing complex, compossed rock songs. We have hip hop artists writing operas. No boundery!
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Jason Derr So…what does ‘New Literature’ look like if we were inspired by the same?

 

 

 

Dara Rochlin
8 hrs · Redondo Beach, CA, United States

Care to share your favorite scene in Martha Toole with us?

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Jason Derr The scene where they met the ghost of the young Martha Toole. I spent weeks trying to get the story to that place – it was the image that inspired me – and I was so elated to FINALLY be there.
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Jason Derr Martha Toole was supposed to be a 10-page short. But it just kept growing and going.
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Dara Rochlin
8 hrs · Redondo Beach, CA, United States

What are your “weapons of mass creation”… ?

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Jason Derr a dictionary, coffee, sunlight and going for walks (allot of ideas happen when I walk)
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Jason Derr Dara Rochlin can you expand so I know i’ve answered your question correctly
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Dara Rochlin That’s pretty much a great answer. What do you need to have to write. For me, my favorite mug of either coffee or cocoa, my red pens and my favorite sweatshirt.
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Jason Derr Dara Rochlin I need a clean writing space. During the week my corner becomes the catch all for anything we need to get out of The Boys way. So I need a clean space or I feel like the clutter is screaming at me.

 

 

 

Shah Fazli
8 hrs · Düsseldorf, Germany

What would be your next story, would you continue with a story like this one, or do you intend to write something different, why do you like writing what you write right now?

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Jason Derr I wish I was writing a series, everyone says thats where the money is for ‘indie’ authors (but I don’t have the budget to edit and develop a full YA novel, sorry Dara Rochlin).
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Jason Derr But I am working on another novella that I hope to turn into my editor soon-ish (thank you Dara Rochlin). It’s called ‘Spirit Animals’ and is set in a world where the hippies are right – we all have a spirit animal. A glowing, over sized animal spirit that follows us around. And how does that impact us? Well, we are the same dumb, numb, clumsy people we have always been.
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Jason Derr And that goes back to my notion earlier of the ‘holy mundane’ – life is saturated with wonder, and we watch a Tim Allen sitcom or a superhero movie.
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Jason Derr after that is ‘The Houses’ (and then Houses, Martha Toole and Spirit Animals will be released as a novella collection, as they each explore our connection to the land and each other)
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Jason Derr After that I have some novel length ideas – ‘Floatopia’ and ‘The Books of Wisdom’ – the latter came from a dream about a burnt out, failed cult leader who returns to the group he founded only to become scared by what his former followers have become. But thats going to have to take some research into the psychology of cults.
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Dara Rochlin A bunch of little novellas together equals a series
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Jason Derr well, true. But its a thematic series and not a continuation of a single story.

 

 

 

 

Dara Rochlin
7 hrs · Redondo Beach, CA, United States

Can you edit your own work? do you need a close friend?

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Jason Derr Dara Rochlin you sly one, you. As for editing – my skills is not spelling. I put an ‘e’ on the end of everything. When my mild dyslexia was less mild I would get all the wrong endings on words. I still can’t tell There, Their and They’re apart. Comma use is my definition of hell.
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Jason Derr So…that said, yes I need and editor. Her name is Dara Rochlin. But a larger project like ‘Master Of The House’ the YA book I want to write I already know bits where the story needs to be expanded and hopefully I can do that before I hand that off to, say, you- in part to keep cost down, in part to do as much heavy work as possible before hand.
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Jason Derr Annie Dillard, pulitzer prize winner, says writing is like building a house. Editing is tearing down all the walls but the one structually important wall and learning thats the one that should of come down
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Dara Rochlin Do you let your wife, friends read it before you hand it off? Or do you hide it away?
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Jason Derr I always let Erin Derr read it. I used to hand off to friends but everyone is so busy with careers or kids (the curse of co-emergence – all your friends marry and have kids in roughly the same time of life) so not so much anymore.
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Jason Derr (note: Master Of The House part 1 has been done for years. But i’ve put off advancing with it until I see better sales for my other work and can afford the depth of editing it will take to turn this into a full novel)
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Erin Derr Can only do grammar editing. I’m not so strong at giving feedback on the details of the story. So I’m glad to hand that off to someone who knows what they are doing!

 

 

 

Will Westerfield
9 hrs

How did you develop your characters? Were any paired…i.e. the creation of one character spawned the creation of another one?

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Jason Derr No pairings were deliberate, but i’m sure it happened. In many ways the characters are my family – I see bits of my grandmothers, my cousins, my sister and the such in the story.
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Jason Derr I was at work with the clients watching TV when I said ‘what if…’ to a certain scene – what if the young nephew and elderly aunt encountered the aunts ghost, but a ghost of her youth and unmet expectations for life.
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Jason Derr The first lines and the central image came flying at me. I had to leap up and catch them, lest they get lost.
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Jason Derr This is often how it works – an image, or a opening line or even just a pattern of speech. The rest of it just emerges, this is even true for the stories that come at me in bits, in fragments that I have to hunt after like a miner going after a vein of gold.
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Audrey DeCoursey I wonder if you could answer more about how you write characters who are based on real people you know, and what the ethics around that are.

 

 

 

 

Audrey DeCoursey
6 hrs

Wondering about character crafting… How to base characters on people you know, yet still have flexibility for fiction. Also, do you state that the similarities are coincidental, or how do you navigate the ethics of that?

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Jason Derr For the first part of your question I would say: You take the person you are basing off of and start saying ‘what if’ and playing with the narrative possibilities. Someone new will arise. Martha Toole was based on my grandmother – some of her quirks, her role in the family. But the charectar herself is original. As for the latter – you can say that not resemblences to living and dead are coincidence, as once you play the ‘what if’ game and start creating someone new then that is true.

 

 

 

 

Dara Rochlin
7 hrs · Redondo Beach, CA, United States

Advice for writers or creative types who don’t know how to start?

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Matt Lovell likes this.

Jason Derr punch the keys! Tell a story, any story. Realize your first story will be crap. Find a mentor. Make a list of your fav writers and then read all of their fav writers.
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Christopher Kelly Pick something that has affected you strongly then ask “what if?”
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Krista Redmayne Don’t let fear hold you back, let it inspire you.
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Jason Derr If you don’t read – if you don’t love language – then you are already disadvantaged. You have to love story and language to be a writer.
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Tim Bowman
7 hrs

Still going?

How much do you plan out the story in advance? And if your plan calls for a scene, but for whatever reason you’re not ready for that scene yet, do you force it and perhaps do an awkward preliminary job, just to have something in that slot? Or do you set it aside and write it later?

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Jason Derr I’m a ‘pantster’ – seat of the pants all of the way. I get an image, a line or a tone of voice and the story just flows. Sometimes its like following a vein in a mine – carefully and it can still peter out. Sometimes its the mother load.
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Jason Derr But for my bigger projects I want to do – ‘The Books of Wisdom’ and ‘Floatopia’ it will require more planning as I want to deal with bigger issues. Looking forward to using scrivner to organize
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Tim Bowman That makes sense…but do you have the experience of thinking “I need a scene where X happens” but the flow isn’t happening? What do you do then?
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Jason Derr I’ve neve really had that problem, but I’m less plot focused than I am story focused. In Martha Toole the only scene I knew for sure would happen was the one where they met the ghost. And even then it happened in a way that I hadn’t planned.
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Jason Derr Tim Bowman ive just gotten a program called ‘Scrivner’ which has all sorts of helpful writerly organizing tools. I recommend it.
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Tim Bowman Cool! I’m more of the “I’m a writer because I’ve been ‘working on’ a novel for the past 25 years” sort…but maybe it will get me off my butt.
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Jason Derr Tim I would take a look at Scrivner, look at the tutorials – its great for organizing thoughts for a novel

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