Good morning internet! Today I’ll be hosting a stop on Jason Fisk’s virtual book tour to promote his hyperfiction project, Salt Creek Anthology.
Here’s the way I’ll be interviewing people on this blog from now on: I’ll be reviewing their work and then crafting 3-5 well-chosen, open-ended, and far-reaching interview questions. Jason Fisk came back with some EXCELLENT answers, so, without further ado…
Katherine Scott Nelson: You were the rebellious son of an evangelical preacher, a kid who grew up crashing cars and mouthing off and was seriously threatened with military school several times. Now you’re a middle school teacher - and sometimes, you seem kind of stunned by this turn your life has taken. Can you talk a little about your relationship to being an outlaw, and how that’s changed?
Jason Fisk: I love that you’re even asking me about being an outlaw. I wish I was more of one, really. There was a point in my life (when I was much younger) that I really didn’t care about that much at all, about anything at all; I’d even go so far as saying that I was self-destructive: car accidents & military school threats, etc.
These days, I care way too much about the people in my life to even dabble in anything associated with being an outlaw; there’s too much riding on being levelheaded for me to act impulsively: wife, kids, mortgage, and car payments to name a few. However, there is still a very rebellious streak that runs straight through me, and if I don’t respect you, I could care less about what you think of me, and I would be more than happy to let you know how I feel.
KSN: One of the things I loved about Salt Creek Anthology – and I actually grew up in a community about 15 miles away from the town Salt Creek is based on – is the dynamic of self vs. couple vs. family vs. group. These are towns that are consciously designed to foster privacy, however that word be defined, but in practice end up breeding a lot of social isolation – while at the same time, open secrets are everywhere and everyone knows everyone else’s business. Any thoughts on any of the above?
JF: I’m glad you liked that. I think you just did a wonderful job of describing what fascinates me about the suburbs. In some ways, I think the suburbs are a failed Eden, or Promised Land. I think a lot of people move to the suburbs looking for an alternative to where they have been, whether that is the city or a rural area. The burbs were supposed to encompass the best of both worlds, but instead seem to be a watered down version of the city and of the country.
When I moved from Chicago to the suburbs, I was amazed at the dirty little secrets that slipped out from between drunken neighbors’ lips, or as you put it, “the open secrets…everywhere.” That being said, that’s also something that fascinated me about the small town I grew up in, back in Minnesota. Even if you had never talked to that person, you knew what they all about, or at least thought you did. I think it’s just human nature. Gossip fascinates me too, which definitely plays some sort of role in it all. I fear that if I examine what fascinates me too closely, it will lose its hold on me, so I’m going to stop there.
KSN: You wrote an amazing, moving essay for Experiments in Manhood on the sudden death of your sister and your struggle to explain it to your daughter (and, I’m guessing, yourself) both inside of and outside of a religious context. What are your thoughts on the stories we tell when the answers to the big questions are out of our reach?
JF: I’m okay with telling stories to explain things that are beyond our grasp, or children’s grasp. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures,” and, to a certain degree, I believe that to be true.
Personally, I am happy that I was told religious stories as a child. As a young man trying to figure things out on my own, religion was something I challenged. I tried to match what I saw with what I was taught, and it didn’t always match up. I bent and broke ideas until all that was left was what I truly believed in. It doesn’t look anything like what I was raised with, but it is what I’ve found to be true and not hypocritical.
I want to create an environment for both of my kids where they feel free to challenge different beliefs and ideas. I want them to be able to find their own truths. I am also aware of my children’s cognitive limitations at this age. They have difficulty understanding some of those abstract thoughts, and stories are wonderful tools for explaining, in a concrete way, what is going on in this big world around them.
KSN: Tangentially related: OMFG HAVE YOU STARTED READING ANNA KARENINA YET?
JF: Oh boy… I have a hard copy of the book beside my bed, and recently I bought it as an e-book, but I can’t bring myself to read it. It was my sister’s favorite book, and since her death, the book haunts me. I feel like it represents a part of her that I don’t know, so in that way, she’s still sort of here with me, you know, I can still learn something more about her. I fear that if I read it, then that’s it… she’s gone…
KSN: What’s your highest, most big-picture, most arrogant goal as a writer?
JF: Ha! I had never dreamed that I would ever even be published, and have surpassed those expectations, so… I like to look from one goal to the next, and I become so focused on the tree, that I rarely look at the forest. Okay, okay, I would love to just write, and not have to worry about paying the bills.
KSN: If a stranger approached you in a bar and said “So what’s your story?” what would you say? (I actually used to do this to people I met in bars, and I’ve gotten some really awesome answers.)
JF: I have always wanted to try something like that, but never could come up with just what to say. Really, it’s a loaded question for me. If I were in a bar, and someone asked me that, I would say, “How long do you have,” and then smile and deflect just enough to keep it interesting without pulling all of the old, ugly skeletons out of the closet. There’s a lot of messed up stuff in there.
KSN: Wild Card Question: What have you always wished someone would ask you?
JF: I honestly am not sure. I think the question would have to have something to do with why I chose to write something in a story or poem, and then after I answered, they would say something like, “That’s exactly what I thought,” and then they’d walk away with a big smile on their face, and so would I.
Tune in tomorrow for the next stop on Jason Fisk’s virtual book tour, hosted by Amy Guth!