Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Interview with debut literary novelist Jay Fox

Today's interview guest is debut novelist Jay Fox. He's going to talk about walls, making copies, and caffeine. :)

Jay Fox was born in Birmingham, Michigan in 1983. He graduated from Birmingham Seaholm High School in 2001 and from NYU in 2005. He is a frequent columnist for staythirsty.com. The Walls is his debut novel.

Jay, welcome to Reviews and Interviews. Please tell us about your debut novel.
The Walls is a literary novel about a young man, the narrator, in search of Coprolalia, a famous and anonymous graffiti artist. Since the artist’s work appears only in dive-bar restrooms in New York City and Brooklyn, a lot of the book takes place in these establishments as the narrator tries to find someone who knows the artist.

Many of the underlying themes in the book, however, deal more with the narrator, a recent college graduate, than the elusive artist. Perhaps the two most important of these concerns nostalgia, and how it very often distorts the past, as well as how the Information Age has flooded us with information, not facts. This flood of data can prove to be disorienting, and a lot of the book deals with the narrator’s desire to find some form of stability. In this regard, it was written as something of a generational statement.

What inspired you to write this book?
Most of my stories come to me in a flash, usually when in the shower. For The Walls, however, it came to me while I was at a bar in Brooklyn (Boat) one night back in the December of 2007. During one of my trips to the restroom, I noticed that the walls were totally covered in these drawings and words that weren’t really poems or slogans or much of anything. I was completely fascinated by them, and I decided to write about this phenomenon that isn't really graffiti, but it's art nonetheless.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I'm working on a new novel that's centered on people's need for certainty in an age of specious authority. For example, I've become very concerned with the way in which pundits and politicians conflate fact and opinion. However, I think this problem goes deeper, and that's going to be the real meat of this novel.

The book is in its initial stages, so I'm being careful not to begin down any roads that may lead to a dead end. Once I get a serious grip on the plot, however, the writing will get a lot easier.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think I was ten when I first thought of myself as a writer. I would write these ridiculous stories that everyone around me found amusing, even if they were a little light on substance. While I enjoyed coming up with the concepts and letting my imagination go off into weird realms, I found that I really liked the process of writing, the way the paper filled up with characters, the way the language could cascade down the page or slow to a viscous drip. Unfortunately, I didn't have a particularly strong grasp on grammar, so a lot of these rhythmic elements were only in my head.

I first considered myself a good writer around the age of seventeen. I wasn't, of course, but I thought I was. In fact, I'm still not entirely sure where I stand on the matter, though I can say for certain that I've grown as a writer over the past eleven years. At the very least I can write with rhythm.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I wish I wrote full-time! As for now, I spend the hours of nine to one copying documents in various courts in Manhattan. I then take lunch before hopping on the train back to my company's office in Brooklyn, where I scan in and email out all of the documents that I copied during the first half of the day. The good news is that I'm typically out by five.

From five until two in the morning, I do all sorts of things. I'll usually sit on the couch and watch television or read right when I get home. After about half an hour, I'll start writing. This usually lasts about an hour, until seven. At this point, I'll either start cooking, leave for practice with my band, Pistols 40 Paces, or profusely thank my girlfriend for taking care of dinner while I sit at the computer typing away. Once I'm either done with dinner or back from practice, it's right back to the computer. I typically like to get out at least five hundred words a day on any project, though I have been known to write as many as five thousand if I'm sufficiently inspired or caffeinated. Caffeine can make the words spill onto the page faster!

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I can't write while listening to music with English lyrics. Consequently, I end up listening to a lot of jazz pianists, particularly Brad Mehldau and Bill Evans. I also like to listen to Edith Piaf.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an architect. Actually, I really wanted to build entire cities more than just individual buildings. I think it had a lot to do with my love for Legos, as well as SimCity. This would probably help explain why I like writing novels more than short stories.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I would just like to thank anyone who has picked up The Walls or has taken the time to read this interview.

Here's the direct Amazon link to the book.

It's been a pleasure having you here today, Jay. Happy writing!


Anonymous said...

You should only read this book if you're a pretentious ass who likes Faulkner and David Foster Wallace.

Anonymous said...

First of all, Faulkner and DFW are two of the best writers in American history. Second, Fox is nothing like either of them. True, his sentences can be a bit long at times, and his use of SAT words can be annoying, but I still think his writing is honest. He is not pretentious. Finally, he's not anywhere near the level of Faulkner or DFW. The Walls is a step above a chore, but it has a lot to say.

Anonymous said...

No, it doesn't have a lot to say. The most (let's (mis)use one of the words that Fox would love) cogent points in the book are nothing short of a full endorsement of Stalinism. Politically, the guy is an fuc*ing nutcase, and you would have to be a lunatic to buy into anything he's selling.

However, you are right about it being a chore. I finished it, like I finished Lolita and Don Quixote. And it was bullsh*t. Unlike the other two books, however, it's literary merits are lacking. It's crap. I really couldn't help but feel exactly the same way I felt after I finished other "big books" that the liberal media has pushed on the people of this country.

Necessary reading for communists only!