Okay, okay. He’s not world famous…not yet, anyway. But you should check out this small-town Kansas writer’s book of short stories and essays, Blowing Carbon. You’ll be glad you did. In it, you’ll find a smattering of subject matter, such as:
*Jack’s lifelong struggle with Caulrophobia: fear of clowns
*A Gothic Horror love story set in Johnson County
*A young man’s master plan to woo a hot librarian
*Mary Had a Little Lamb – and revenge
*A painful encounter with racism in 1973
*The disturbing future of the written word
*A tribe’s dangerous journey to a snowy promise land
It was a pleasure to read a combination of stories and essays that induced laughter, fear, sadness, anger, nostalgia, and hope. They appeal to a wide range of ages, male or female. Basically, there’s something for everyone. The characters are easy to relate to and likeable, but with flaws just like any human. Jack is a master of his craft – clever, genuine, and undeniably captivating.
If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of Jack’s book, Blowing Carbon, you can do so here:
I also encourage you to look for other books written by local authors. There’s probably a small section in a library or bookstore near you that features local work.
I was lucky enough to steal Jack for a few minutes and ask him some heavy questions.
1. Briefly describe your last encounter with a clown.
“Clowns, and to a much lesser degree, girls, comprised the principle banes of my childhood. All were evil and all were out to get me, especially the clowns. Avoiding clowns or minimizing my time in their presence remained a life strategy after I became an adult, even though the fear had subsided. My most recent encounter with one, actually with a whole bunch of them, was at a circus in Kansas City’s Kemper Area a few years ago. The experience wasn’t that bad at all. Mostly the clowns behaved like the three (eleven of them actually) stooges might, only in whiteface, and with big red noses. They were really quite funny – on the surface anyway. During these particular clown’s performances I thought I noticed a couple of them stealing furtive glances my way even though I was seated twenty-three rows up. And that tall one, the one with the swirly orange hair, turned and smiled my way as the show concluded and they ran out of the ring. His smile wasn’t that friendly at all.”
2. In Post Literacy you speak of a future without tangible books, without pencil and paper to write on. The book publishing industry’s future seems bleak with the growth of online publishing – ebooks can be created, uploaded and downloaded by anyone. What is it about holding a real book and writing on real paper that you cherish?
“I worry about two things: losing books in their current form, and also the end of books altogether.
The latter worry first: the number of people who read books dwindles. There are so many other ways to occupy one’s mind. Video games, texting, tweeting, facebook, and the internet all gobble up people’s time. And reading a book requires a significant investment of time. Will these time grabbers and other similar yet-to-be-developed diversions squeeze out books? When I began my own blog last year, my blog set-up advisor told me to keep them short. She told me that the average web surfer’s attention span lasts about four minutes. Not too many four minute books out there. I fear that when book readers are marginalized, there will be no economic incentive for writers to write them. We will become a world of four-minute tweeters and facers and bloggers.
Relatively soon I expect books to change in form, and those who love to read them (me) will adapt. We will buy Kindles or whatever else comes down the pike in order to continue to read “books.” When I was a kid, my mom often took me to the library and I loved it, and vowed that someday I would own my own full bookshelves. And I always enjoyed sniffing around bookstores, pulling out books and reading the jackets and admiring the cover artwork. I love the way a new book smells, and the way an old one does. When we built a house out in the country, and we met with the architect, I told her there were only two things that I wanted – a deep bathtub, and a library with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves so that I could free my old friends from their basement cardboard box tombs. Now I can walk into my library and see my books and each one carries a memory of the read. I can even pull them out and sniff them. I have books that were my parents and grandparents and a handful from my great-grandparents. With an e-reader these joys will be replicated by powering up one’s device, browsing a web site for new titles, downloading, and then by opening the desired folder and scrolling down the list of titles. And anytime or anywhere I want, I can hold my thin plastic rectangle up close and sniff it. Ah, I love the smell of plastic in the morning.”
3. What author would you most like to meet and talk with in person, both dead and alive?
“Alive? Stephen King hands down. I have read nearly everything he has written, including the stinkers (more than few, as many books as he has written). But when he nails one he hits it out of the park. Most King poo-pooers think he is just a horror writer. Stephen King is a literary, sometimes harsh and sometimes smooth as Makers Mark, author who writes of the human condition with impressive depth and knowledge. He happens to use horror as his primary, but not sole, medium. Through horror he puts people under extreme pressure and shows what makes them tick, how some exhibit the characteristics we all hope that we possess and how some of them crash and burn.
I would remind those who think he is a one-trick horror pony that King wrote the stories that the movies Stand by Me, Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile were based on. And King knows kids and remembers what it was like to be one. When he writes about them he is at his best. I like to write about kids and teenagers too. I think Stephen King is a regular guy, and not so full of himself that he wouldn’t enjoy a beer and a chat. And King loves baseball. If the conversation lags, we have our mutual love of baseball in common. Distant second: Janet Evanovich or John Irving.
Dead? Mark Twain. He was one funny guy. And he wrote a novel on the evils of racism when that simply wasn’t done, and made it palatable to a wide range of readers, racists included. I’ve read much of his work. I admire his biting, often hilarious sarcasm and I think that it would be a hoot to sit down with him and shoot the shit. Second Place: Kurt Vonnegut. Third: Bill Shakespeare.”
4. Vampires are so hot right now. Did you catch the fever, too?
“I did not catch the fever, but merely a minor vampire cold. I read Octavia Butler’s Fledgling about all-white vampires who’ve been around for thousands of years and one is born black and can stay up during the day and go out in the sun for brief periods. One group wants to breed her. And of course the racist vampires want her dead. Butler also wrote one of the best short stories I’ve ever read “Bloodchild” which won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for sci-fi writing. I read Twilight but not the sequels, though I did watch the movies on video – pretty good stuff. I love TrueBlood but don’t have HBO so I’m not a regular Blood watcher. And both of my thumbs are up for 30 Days of Night. I did, however, contract an acute case of Zombie fever and I fear I’m still contagious.”
5. Paparazzi catch you doing something embarrassing. What would that be, most likely?
“Well, the “print” paparazzi would embarrass me very much by asking this question and convincing me to answer it truthfully.
“Photo”paparazzi would have had a field day following me around in the past. Most embarrassing were the stunts and feats of derring-do that I performed or attempted to perform under the influence of alcohol and other substances. And I could go on and on about the many embarrassing rugby after-party moments during my playing days. Some of my feats are legendary in my old circle of neer-do-wells. I suppose that I might have qualified for a full half-hour in a Jackass movie, the results of which found me in at least a handful of different emergency rooms. Nowadays paparazzi would quickly get bored trying to follow me around. About the best photo-op they could come up with would be the ample opportunities to click me taking a piss outside. There’s just something intrinsically macho and liberating about whipping it out and taking a piss in the great outdoors. That’s a big perk of being a male and living out in the country.”
And…for the finale, here is Jack’s website and blog:
Remember your local authors! They need love, too.