Q&A with Jonathan Cook
A little about the Author:
Q: Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
A: I'm a high school English teacher. I have a master's degree from Eastern Illinois University. I've lived all over the country, mostly in small, rural communities.
Q: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
A: When I was fourteen or so. I've always read extensively, ever since I was a young child, and I remember reading this god awful novel about office workers and the tech industry. It wasn't funny, it wasn't well-written, and it wasn't intelligent. It ranks as one of the most ineptly written works I've come across, and I've read some horrifically written works. When I finally finished it, I remember thinking that I could write, as a teenager, better than that particular author. As it turned out, I wasn't a terrible writer, I enjoyed writing, and I had some interesting ideas. It took awhile for me to really get going with it, but I eventually did.
Q: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
A: I try to ignore that anyone else will read my works and then write how I feel the text best expresses the story/scene/character/moment/etc. I believe the actual text of a work should act as a reflection of the work's content. For example, in my first novel, I wrote a party scene as a kind of impressionistic prose poem, rather than as a straightforward description of what is seen/heard/felt/etc. My intent in doing so was to show the reader a scene as the reader would actually process said scene in real life. People do not process moments in the methodical, sequential mode favored by so many writers. They process things in flashes and only after the fact flesh out the details. Because the immediacy and the urgency of that scene was critical, I chose to thrust a staccato series of images at the reader until scene's climax. It may be easier on the reader to go the traditional route, but the effect of assaulting the reader pays greater dividends.
Likewise, in SINNERMAN, the central love scene of the story is written without a great amount of detail. Love scenes are notoriously difficult to write well, because how does one make art of out so basic an act without being overly dry ("His erection pushed into her moist vagina.") or overly purple ("He drove deep his unbridled manhood, hewn from oak of the Garden of Eden and steeled with transcendent passion, into the budding flower from when came the fount of her ecstasy.")? And then there's the Fifty Shades method of writing, in which every single love scene plays out in the exact same way--all of his pants hang that way and her inner goddess sings. Personally, I opted to forego the details, to give the reader an impression of what happens and let him/her fill in the details. After all, most people would prefer to imagine a love scene in ways that appeal to them rather than have what appeals to the author spelled out in block letters.
Q: If we Googled your name what would we see?
A: My website, hopefully. The website of a guy who does voiceovers for movie trailers--the one with the deep, gravely voice. Page after page of articles on Palestine and Israel. And one or two reviews of my first book. Me, I'm not really on Google.
Q: You were just given a boat. What would you name it?
A: Anna Livia, after the wife in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake. I just think it's a pretty name.
Q: You are granted three wishes. What are they? (No more wishes)
A: A publishing contract. A date with Kate Moss. $600 million tax-free. I think I could live very comfortably with $600 million tax-free and a publishing contract. As for the date with Kate Moss, what can I say? It's Kate Moss! Who wouldn't wish for a date with her? Actually, it's probably not a date I'd wish for...
Q: you get to have dinner with any 5 people dead or alive. Name them! Who sits on either side of you?
A: Adolf Hitler, at the far end of the table, so everyone can periodically stare at him and make him feel uncomfortable. My eighth-grade mathematics teacher, right next to Hitler, so she has to be the one to talk with Hitler and ruminate on how she made all of us feel in her class.
I'd want Oscar Wilde close to me, simply because he had a reputation for being so interesting at parties. Ernest Hemingway, as well, so we could drink and talk about manly things, like hunting... and drinking. Finally, Salman Rushdie, since he always seems like such a happy guy. Plus, we could talk about having our work misunderstood and bond.
Q: Tell us about your books and what inspired you to write them.
A: My first novel, Youth and Other Fictions, was a way of dealing with my anxiety over living in a post-Columbine America. I was a junior in high school when the shooting took place, and the school district completely ignored that anything had happened. Rather than acknowledging how shaken the students might have been, the district opted for business as usual. As a result, everyone was forced to suppress their reactions to the shooting. Youth became my way of dealing with those suppressed emotions.
SINNERMAN, on the other hand, came out of a misunderstanding and a hypothetical question. I asked a student of mine about something I had read on Twitter or Facebook regarding a former student of mine. Somehow, the question became "Is So-and-so seeing anybody?", which to a seventeen-year-old sounds remarkably like "Dude, that chick is so hot! I definitely want her!" This resulted in a few weeks of good-natured ribbing: "Ooh, Mr. Cook's got the hots for So-and-so!" I started wondering, what would happen if I tried to date a former student? The novel became my attempt at an answer.
You can read the reviews of Youth and Other Fictions and Sinnerman by clicking the links. Buy the books at the links below!
Barnes & Noble [Nook]
iTunes [iPad, iPhone, iPod]