Something Very Much Like an Interview with Jason Lee Norman

Jason Lee Norman is a bearded author whose collection of microfictions, Americas, is now available. I sent him a few questions a while back, and he sent me a few answers. Somewhere along the line, we lost the questions, but we still have the answers:

1. I’ve never really thought of Hodgman as an influence for this book, although I do love his books. Whenever I can pull off some of that kind of deadpan humour I always think of it as a happy accident. I had some of my favourite Latin American authors in mind (Marquez, Borges) when I was writing this book but I think that they are basically from another solar system when it comes to writing and all I can do is use the book to sort of thank them for the inspiration. I also read Mathias Svalina’s I am a Very Productive Entrepeneur when I was about halfway done my book and it really buoyed me to keep on going with it. I felt that we were trying to do the same kind of thing with narratives and his book was just so enjoyable that I came to believe that my book could possibly have the same effect on a reader.

Jason Lee Norman, bearded author.

2. I think that story has to make you feel something and maybe even make you learn something. The stories in my book are very short and they’re sort of like photographs. The picture tells its own story but the story that you take from the picture can be completely different. Neither is wrong. I used to want to tie little ribbons at the end of my stories, like everything was all wrapped up and settled and quaint but I don’t do that anymore. The stories in Americas are cyclical in nature but when you get to the end of each story, you’re in a very different position than where you started.

3. Matthew Salesses is a writer. I don’t know him personally but I’ve followed some of his work through Facebook links and Twitter and such. There was a little contest being put on by friends of his that was looking for stories that made him the protagonist of your story. It had to be a story that was really about him though. You couldn’t just change the name of your protagonist to Matthew Salesses–that would be cheating. They gave a few facts about Matthew that writers could draw from if they wanted and that’s where I got my idea for Venezuela. The story revolves around adoption and how it feels for an adult who came from an adopted family to have a child of their own. Parenthood kind of leads to separation one way or the other. My story was chosen as one of three stories to win the prize. I hope that Matthew liked the story. I read his book, Our Island of Epidemics soon after my book was done and it was absolutely fantastic.

4. When I was 18 my father took my family down to Argentina to live for about two years. He got a contract to work down there and it was a pretty big adventure for the whole family. I’ve traveled to about four or five other countries in the Americas since then. I’ll let the reader guess which ones.

5.  Ha ha. In the story Suriname, the whole country sleeps in and misses a big job interview. I can’t remember if I’ve ever slept in and missed a job interview but I have slept in and missed a couple big events before. Once I thought I might miss an interview because I was in jail. Another time I took a nap and stood up my girlfriend on a night I was supposed to meet her friends for the first time. Nobody knew where I was the whole evening. Things were pretty tense for a few days after but we’re doing better now.

6.  I think I was always trying to send a bigger message about humanity and the Americas but the message was still a simple one. I feel like Latin American culture has affected me personally and creatively in so many ways but it also feels like there is still a lot about these countries that we don’t know. There is still a lot of mystery there, and I liked that and it’s one of the reasons why I can get away telling some of the stories that I do in this book. People are always about 50/50 on whether they think the events in the book really happened or are made up. There probably wouldn’t be a similar reaction if I wrote a book about countries in Europe- but maybe. There is also a feeling of sameness throughout the book. As far as a message about humanity, I just tried to show all the different ways that we’re all connected with each other although it may not seem like it at first.

7. In Guatemala, they celebrate National Day of the Tiger where everybody pretends to be a tiger for the whole day. I’m working very hard on having a day like this in my city. We’ll start small and see what happens. My costume wouldn’t be that realistic. Hopefully just some really large Tiger pajamas. I would go RAWR every chance I got and walk around on all fours and eat tiger ice cream just for good measure. I think every country should have a Day of the Tiger.

8.  Next? Well I want to find a home for the rest of my very short fiction from the last couple of years and very soon I hope to begin a novel and see what happens. Before that, I’ll be spending a couple weeks traveling through the United States and doing some readings from Americas and hopefully selling some books down there this summer. I’m really looking forward to my American road trip and in the fall, if all goes according to plan, I’ll be starting on the novel.

Jason’s blog tour continues here: http://www.candlebeambooks.com/

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4 comments

  1. Très avant-garde! An interview without questions–only answers! Betcha it’ll catch on! Great “interview,” Captain Panther (huh–you seem to have a “thing” for the anthropomorphic, don’t you…)!

    1. We could even make a game of it — Guess the Question! Also, I’m not sure where my fascination with the anthropomorphic comes from. Must have watched too many Disney movies as a child!

  2. In case anyone is curious, the questions have just turned up:

    1) Americas reminds me in some ways of John Hodgman’s books of fake trivia. Was he an influence at all? Who were some of your (other?) influences for this book?

    2) The stories in this collection aren’t traditional narratives. How do you define story, and what, for you, is the value of storytelling?

    3) Your story “Venezuela” is dedicated to Matthew Salesses. Who is Matthew, and why did you dedicate this story to him?

    4) How many of the Americas have you visited?

    5) Have you ever slept in and missed a job interview? If so, what was the job?

    6) Although the stories in the collection are highly fanciful, I also get the sense that they’re depicting a larger truth about the Americas and humanity in general. What might that be?

    7) Do you ever celebrate National Day of the Tiger? How realistic is your costume? What is it made of?

    8) What’s next for you?

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