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SO LET’S JUST LET THE CAT OUT OF THE BAG

jasonakley

it’s a restless hungry feeling that does nobody no good »

an author to an agent

November 6, 2014 //

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This is my recent correspondence with a literary agent. I am fond of this guy because at least he answers emails, but I’m starting to realize people like me make his existence irrelevant…  I’m not saying I used to not care but now I’d just rather play with my cat…

From:”Jason Akley” <jasonakley@ymail.com>

Date:Wed, Nov 5, 2014 at 11:37 PM

Subject:work in progress

Dear Jeff,

Sorry for the late night email I’m at work til midnight and I thought I might share what’s going on with the writing because you’re about the only one that actually responds to emails (frankly I don’t know how you do it). I work for the VA now. You know that joke how suicides come back as civil servants–well, that’s me. But I must say I’m much more financially secure now and though my wife and I divorced we’re still on good terms and she’s not afraid to be a friend and I see my two daughters everyday so that’s good.

I wanted to say something about Lazarus. It’s been a good six years since I finished writing it and besides the Kirkus review (and they’re supposed to be known for their prescience) many other just average reviewers on Amazon have said (besides complaining about its complexity and length) that it’s a masterpiece. So what gives? After six long years and three more books, of which The Psalmist is another highly favored by the critics, it’s starting to hit home for me that like in London’s Martin Eden it’s pretty much arbitrary bullshit. Like the protagonist in that book, am I any different now than I was six years ago, or will I be different fifty years from now? The work’s already done. It don’t change. And that’s haunting but at the same time it still seems a strange mystery to me how one gets “branded” and enough people (or the right people) say “Hey, this guy’s good.” and the money follows. Or which is it, you know what will make money so that’s what you brand that’s what you give people to read and say, “It’s good.”

Anyway, I don’t care about making money that’s not why I started writing but after fifteen years of it and not just talk but actual work it does seem kind of a shame the writer of Lazarus as lauded by Kirkus still works as a lowly lab tech and has to face coworkers who he doesn’t tell he’s a writer (believe me he’s learned that lesson) yet still the word inevitably gets out and I have to take people telling me what I should write to be a bestseller (of course they never admit to reading my writing or whether it’s good or not–funny how people will confront you out of the blue and you have to be the sane one and say to yourself “Oh, you must be stalking me on Facebook. That’s why all of sudden you’re talking to me about what I should write though I’ve never once told you I was writer or that I’ve written any books.”) I’ve gotten used to it, and that’s fine–it’s kept me humble. But I will say it seems a waste that I spend 40 hours a week at a VA hospital lab which could be time I used for writing full-time. There’s been projects delayed and book ideas I never get to because I can’t write full-time (yet I’ve managed so far to publish over 2600 pages in my spare time).

So anyway–maybe it is what is. All very Zen. But I wanted to share with you how I feel because you’re in the industry you know how it works and if you respond to this I’ll probably find it discouraging and it’ll probably just piss me off and I won’t write for a few days, but at least this is documented for posterity’s sake and I have to be grateful that at least you responded (you also get used to the silence). Every writer over and over has said it’s a lonely life and after The Psalmist I almost hung in the towel. I figured I’d done enough for a legacy. But I can’t help it. I write for the pure joy of it, and I get restless if I don’t. Working on a short story collection now. Not commercially viable I know, but what are ya gonna do? Hell, the stories I’ve written so far aren’t even commercially viable for the literary magazines–they’re too long.

Maybe eventually I’ll just luck into something that sells. But I don’t think it’s luck.

Thanks if you read this. I don’t know how you respond under the deluge of correspondence you must get.

Sincerely,

Jason

On Thu, 11/6/14, Jeff Kleinman <jeff@foliolit.com> wrote:

Subject: RE: work in progress

To: “Jason Akley” <jasonakley@ymail.com> Date: Thursday, November 6, 2014, 3:01 PM

Hi, Jason, thanks for the email. I’m sorry things haven’t been going as well for you as you’d hoped – all I can say is that publishers today seem to be looking for a wonderful premise married with a wonderful voice. So maybe really figuring out that great premise is a place to start?

Good luck with the short story collection – not quite sure how it can help you, but hopefully you’re enjoying the process.

Take care!

Jeff Kleinman

Folio Literary Management

On Thu, 11/6/14, Jason Akley wrote:

Subject: RE: work in progress To: “Jeff Kleinman” Date: Thursday, November 6, 2014, 4:11 PM

What better premise than Oedipus? Not only in my retelling it as a great Greek tragedy but the fact that it touches on the deepest themes of existence? That’s what I’m saying, Jeff. I already did it. I already married a wonderful premise with a wonderful voice, and unless Kirkus is a liar I dare you to compare their review of Lazarus to any of their reviews from the past eighty years on what are now considered standards as great pieces of literature for unless they were just blowing smoke up my ass take their review of say The Grapes of Wrath and put it beside their review of Lazarus and compare them and tell me what you think. It just proves my point that it’s arbitrary bullshit and market demographics and about making money and giving people what they want when the truth is we buy shit as long as it says guaranteed on the label. The truth is I already did it. I already wrote a wonderful book and nobody gave a shit and here I am telling you it’s for sale I own the rights and still nobody gives a shit.

and so you see I wanted to get to that pathology—the warnings signs in a world set up for a perfect storm where you’re a fool to care a fool to think you have anything to prove and you’re a fool by making your world a little colder…

in the use of misdirection and imagination

for that’s all that really separates us from the animals.  Your cats and dogs.  It’s our ability to imagine, and how we direct it (for what the eyes see and the ears hear) in fear or in love—why, we see these ideas formed all around us.  What makes us extraordinary is our imagination.

So you can see what I was doing here.  And now I must end it.  I figured Pastor Mike would be a perfect vehicle to bring this story to a resolution.  That it would be his voice concluding these impressions and if you really must know if you care I was the ex-stepdad in the story.  See I do have a stepdaughter that lived in my house from the age of thirteen to sixteen and her nickname is V and she does have a boyfriend named Mason and she does happen to be pregnant right now due in January—it’s a boy—and I did want to write something relevant to millennials so I threw in all the shit about Silk Road and the darknet and lifted a news article I saw in my Facebook feed about a girl I knew once who apparently really did shoot her boyfriend’s dog in the face and George is just lifted from another story and I figured if this gonna be a collection of short stories about a town I better connect them somehow and folks like Pastor Mike make an excellent tool to thread the stories together and I thought okay what should he say what would he say in these circumstances what was really on my mind because V’s dad ain’t dead (he is an ironworker but as far as I know he hasn’t fallen at work) and she didn’t really get religious (though her mom has) and Mason didn’t kill himself out at Herrin Reservoir but a boy of nineteen recently did the father his younger daughter goes to school with my daughters and he’s a little dude works as prison guard out at the federal penitentiary and there were rumors his son was bullied a lot because of his height so I threw that in the story because the theme of suicide is relevant to me and I know what that reveals just like I used V’s dad being dead to talk about my own father being dead and of course the other struggles those age-old battles we all have with faith when maybe we were told the truth but maybe just not in the right way and we go through all kinds of hell for it but later on in the journey we realize the truth is still the truth and we have to heal we have to forgive and in the clarity of complications realize at the end of the day it’s just you—it’s just you and your imagination.

So what was I trying to say?  What was I trying to reveal?  What did I reveal just now?  And so I`m wondering what I should have Pastor Mike say, and better yet—how?  Maybe it’ll be conversation with his wife—to be a fly on the wall when the preacher comes home and tells you about his day.  Or maybe a conversation with his thirteen year old son—that would be an interesting vehicle for a discussion.  And I guess what I really want to talk about is can we give love without asking for love in return.  The fallibility of that.  And of course I should probably have George have his last say—written in biblical format.  I guess just to prove the point of how we downplay the importance of the writer how I have conversations with people in the publishing industry such as the one above when people build religions and place their faith (to the point their willing to die for it) on the basis of a book.

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