Jamie Greening has been with Athanatos since 2009, after he won the Fyodor Dostoyevsky Award in creative writing.
Q1: Why do you write?
Anne Lamott has a great line in her book “Bird by Bird” about the writer’s calling. I’ll paraphrase her words a bit–it’s not like I don’t have a choice, I can write or I could go kill myself. Writing, communicating, and storytelling are intertwined in my very being, a part of my soul, and I believe put there by God. If I did not write, I would wither. If there were no avenues such as Bard and Book or blogging to write, I would scribble things on loose leaf paper and pin them on the walls of public restrooms. Hey, that’s a good idea, I might do that this afternoon.
Q2: How would you describe your writing ‘method’?
That is a great question. I am not a strict maker of outlines, as many writers advocate for, but I do have in my mind a direction I want the story to take. Once that is determined, I simply pants it–that is to say I sit at the computer and bang out whatever my mind and creative energy comes up with. It is during that process that characters emerge, back story, motivations, plot twists and all the juicy stuff of a good story. After that process is over I rework it two or three (hundred) times with a red sharpie and lots of printed copies. I never feel like a project is finished, but I come to a place where I have to let it go.
Q3: How would you respond to the classic question, “Is there Christian art, or artists who are Christians?”
Yes. The answer is yes. There is such a thing as Christian art just like there is such a thing as Pagan art (Venus on a Half-Shell comes to mind) and Buddhist art. There is nothing wrong or odd about a faithful follower of Christ attempting to make an artistic endeavor–music, poetry, sculpture, or literature as a reflection of his or her faith. Yes, though, there are artists who are Christians but their art is not necessarily or necessarily always Christian in nature. I like to put myself in this category. Sometimes my stories are very spiritual and biblical like the Pastor Butch Gregory stories and sometimes they are not, like my Jolly Rogers Halloween/pirate story. The question sort of poses a false dichotomy, which, I think, comes from the notion (and probably true notion) that most specifically Christian art is not very good. The solution to this problem is not to separate Christianity as as subject of art, but to make the art better and less predictable.
Q4: Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?
Write every day–or at least work on your writing every single day. If you wait until you feel like it, you will never write well. Writing is a discipline and it is hard work. When he was starting a new project Hemingway tried to write 500 words a day. I shoot for 1,000 but that is because I have a computer and Hemingway did not. Then when it is written, spend some part of every day editing, wordsmithing, re-working, and dreaming about the story. Write every day.
Q5: Which of your creations has brought you the most joy?
That’s a tough one because each story is a joy, so the question is like asking “which of your children do you love the most?” I am really enjoying working on the Deep Cove Monster because it is purely secular and not spiritual at all–just a monster story, nothing more, nothing less. However, the creation of Pastor Butch Gregory is probably the right answer to the question. He was the anchor of my first book and I have since published another short story that features him (“The Land Begins to Heal”, found only in the “It’s About Time” collection) and am looking to publish a full length novel I wrote about him next year. I enjoy PBG so much because I love pastors and feel that the pastoral burden is unique and often misunderstood. Through PBG I hope to communicate about the soul of ministry.
Q6: Which has brought you the most heartache?
That’s easy, it would be my short story “Speculation.” I love that story and feel that it is the most theological and reflective piece I’ve ever seen about life, death, and heaven, yet almost no one has ever read it. It just sits there yellowing and gathering digital book mold on the digital shelf.
Q7: Is there anything you’d like to say?
Only that being a part of the Bard and Book community is a great pleasure and treasure in my life, and I am deeply grateful to Anthony Horvath for the opportunity to connect with so many wonderful and creative people.
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