Tuesday, October 27, 2020

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Jaime Fountaine

Jaime Fountaine was raised by “wolves.” She is the author of Manhunt (Mason Jar Press, 2019). She lives in Philadelphia

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

To date, I have only written one book. Finishing something feels way better than giving up and deleting it, but it also requires significantly more effort. 

2 - How did you come to fiction first, as opposed to, say, poetry or non-fiction?

I was a lonely, imaginative child, who spent most of her time reading.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?

Most of the time, I’m writing despite myself, rather than as some well-thought out routine. I spend more time in my head than I do on paper. Sometimes that means that after a long time considering an idea, I can bang out a pretty solid draft in a day. Other times, that means I write four sentences a month and never finish a story.

4 - Where does a work of prose usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?

Usually, a concept or a line or a voice will make its way into my head, and I’ll sit with it for as long as it takes to build a story around it, or give up.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?

I’ve been running reading series on and off since I was 23 (I’m 35 now), and they’ve made me a better writer, a better community member, and I think a better friend. I’m perhaps too comfortable speaking in public, but using that impulse to support work I’m interested in, and to see how a voice or an idea actually lands has been invaluable to me.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?

I like to say that, since it’s out in the hands of readers, it’s up to them to decide what my work means, which is both technically true, and a great way to let myself off the hook.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

I have no idea! I tend to avoid making sweeping, generalized statements that I will probably regret saying in twenty minutes. I shouldn’t be a spokesperson for anything but my friends and Tide Pens. I get a lot of use out of Tide Pens.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

I had an incredible experience with my editors at Mason Jar. They paid an incredible amount of attention to my novella while working on two others simultaneously, and the book is so much better for it. I’d never worked so closely or extensively with editors before.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

My friend Lorraine once told me that procrastination is basically a way to insulate yourself against perfectionism.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (fiction to an advice column)? What do you see as the appeal?

Most of my non-fiction writing (advice column, interviews, a couple of essays) are so much in my own, ridiculous voice that it’s technically easier than developing an authentic voice for a character and keeping it consistent over many pages. It’s not difficult to be a goofy, public version of myself, so doling out advice is much easier than being publicly honest about my feelings, which I don’t enjoy one bit. I’ve done it, and I’ll probably do it again, but it’s much harder for me than writing fiction is.

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?

I have no set routine for writing. When I’m in the middle of a project, more of the work is done in my head than on the screen/paper. When I’m not writing, I’m just not writing. I hate journaling, I hate staring at a blank screen, I hate generative exercises. And unless I owe somebody something, I just let myself be a brat about it, because I always come back to writing on my own.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

I’m much better at figuring out these kinds of problems with my passive brain, so I usually cook when I’m stuck on something writing related. The chopping and kneading soothe me, and give me a creative endeavor with a positive outcome (most of the time, at least) that I can focus on instead of thinking about the problems I’m having with a particular narrative.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?


14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?

I saw Twin Peaks in kindergarten, and it imprinted on me in a very big way. Watching it as an adult felt a lot like going home. I tend to think about my writing in terms of what things feel like for the characters, rather than how it should look for an audience, and finding a way to translate that has been very informed by the work of David Lynch.

There are a lot of songwriters who are very good at building entire worlds between words. Tom Waits, Nick Cave, and the late David Berman are particular favorites of mine.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?

I don’t think I could’ve written Manhunt if I hadn’t read Steven Dunn’s Potted Meat or if I didn’t read Bud Smith’s essays about writing on his phone at work.

I am almost always reading, and I don’t really know how to quantify the importance that has on my work. There are so many great stories and books and essays that have made me a better writer, and there’s also a bunch of mediocre shit that’s done the same. I’m terrible at making lists because I always leave something off.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?

I haven’t traveled much. I don’t see that changing anytime soon, unfortunately.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?

I very much have a day job, as an administrative and outreach coordinator at a public health research institution. I send a lot of emails.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

I wasn’t good at other stuff? I can’t paint or draw or play an instrument and I have very limited patience for crafts.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

Recently, I’ve loved Little Eyes by Samanta Schweiblin, Sleepovers by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips, and Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frasier. I’m also extremely into Samantha Irby’s “Who’s on Judge Mathis Today” newsletter, which gives me something to live for every day.

I’ve been terrible at watching movies or TV of any real substance. I was once a real asshole about film, but now I’m just a tired bitch who rewatched Hot Rod for the fifth time last week.

20 - What are you currently working on?


12 or 20 (second series) questions;

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