Author Series: Jared Kane
I’m Jared Kane. I’m a writer and poet—yes, I’m differentiating the two. I’ve written three
novels (Decline, Mya, and Underside of Wars), as well as many short stories and countless poems.
I live in the arctic north in Alberta, Canada, but I’m not from here. I’m not really from anywhere. I never really lived where I was born, nor stayed in one place for long until I had to for crass, income-related purposes. But I don’t feel from here. I have a lot enmity for most places I’ve lived, and am a perpetual grass-is-always-greener type. I arrived at this miserly state by having studied English literature and European history and art in university, which is a good way to learn about places you may never see. It’s definitely one thing to read and absorb pictures of a place, and quite another feel it. For instance, when I was in Florence, walking the 463 steps up to the duomo atop the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, I felt the jagged stone all the way up and ran my fingers across the dips in the long-worn steps. In the Pantheon in Rome, I walked to the centre of the structure and felt the floor, breathing deeply while looking up at the sky through the great open oculus above. That was the texture that I have always craved.
All of that is to say that, while my body is in this place, my mind is perpetually in another. And of course, that’s a big part of writing: being a witness for elsewhere.
What initially got you into writing?
Probably my parents, who are multimedia artists. I say “probably” because I’ve always been an artist, and it’s hard to remember a specific impetus. I started drawing, painting, and writing as soon as I could hold a pencil. The visual arts fell away when I became serious about writing.
But there was a lull. Reality has a way of making everything feel muted and mundane. It’s difficult to talk about mortgages, interest rates, paying bills, or fixing drywall and still maintain an active imagination and creative bent. Then one day, I was sitting at my computer, and I wrote the first chapter of my first book. Just like that. The sudden and complete inspiration was almost divine or cosmic. Since that moment, I’ve written three books, many short stories, and many, many more poems.
Who are your biggest influences and why?
This is hard to narrow down. I take bits and pieces from everything and everyone. Music might be my biggest influence. I don’t play regrettably, but I consume it like a drug. Literally. I imagine if my brain was observed while listening to music, my synapses would light up like a Christmas tree. I won’t mention any specific musicians, as music is so powerfully subjective that I don’t want to alienate any potential readers (actually, I’m going to go ahead and plug the band “Lycia”, with entry songs like “Bare” and “Quiet Moments”).
A few obvious literary influences—owing to my particular university education—are William Wordsworth (from whom I took a romantic sensibility) and Thomas Hardy (by whom I was infected with a pragmatic and tragic sensibility). The former is like the question, and the latter is the answer, if that makes sense.
There’s still so many! And I want to mention them all like I’m accepting an Oscar. I’ll try to keep the rest short, though. On my three completed novels, J.G. Ballard’s The Crystal World probably has the most direct impact. It’s so grounded and dark, but there’s still wonder in the world he creates.
Another influence is H.P. Lovecraft (not his rampant racism) because he creates stories with such moody cosmic inevitability.
Ted Hughes’ collection of poems, Crow, has had the greatest influence on my poetry. It is a raw and visceral set of open verse poems, many of which I read, then sit for a moment shaking my head and wishing I had written those lines.
Are you traditionally published or self-published?
I’m both, though unfortunately I don’t feel like I’ve found an audience at all, especially for my novels. I’ve published poems and stories in both print and online journals, but I’ve self-published my novels.
I think like most people, I would have chosen the route of “immediate love and admiration by all”, but that’s just not how things usually work. Slipping a story or poem into a random journal is a little easier than convincing a print publisher to take a chance on a novel that is going to be challenging for some readers. So, until I find a courageous publisher, I’m working to perfect a process for self-publishing, and, in the meantime, looking at some more marketable projects.
What are your novels about? What makes them unique?
The language makes them distinctive. When I read Salman Rushdie’s The Ground Beneath Her Feet (another influence!), I was so impressed with the language he used. It felt like each paragraph was its own poem—like you could remove a paragraph from the book and drop it in a poetry collection and it would fit beautifully. I wanted to bring that to my writing.
Decline is a quiet and introspective post-apocalyptic story. The narrator encounters horrors, friends, and lovers that could only exist once all the physical and figurative structures we currently depend on have fallen away. Along the way, he experiences moments of joy, grief, cruelty, and love, all of which merge into greater, deeper discoveries about the value of life.
Mya is a unique story. It has a namesake song that helped inspired it: “Mya” by Yendri. I was on a train from Boston to New York, and I saw some dilapidated buildings in some arbitrary, run down neighborhood. I was struck suddenly with the image of the strong female lead of Mya. She felt almost flesh and blood to me at the moment, and it was incredibly stirring. Mya’s story is a surreal and tragic romance that takes place in just such an arbitrary, run down neighborhood. The two young leads are starting university, and through their own personal traumas and some strange and dreamlike events in the city, they grow to restlessly love each other. There’s a few twists and turns, and the reader will realize they may not be able to trust everything the narrator relates.
Underside of Wars is more conventionally plotted. It’s more pulpy in its language. It’s a dark comedy about an alcoholic writer and all the lies he tells himself in order to live with himself. There’s a spiral waiting for him, and he senses it. He tries to stay one step ahead of it, but each step is a new thread that gets pulled, threatening to unravel everything he believes and loves.
How important is writing as an art form in the world today?
It depends on one’s perspective. A lot of the world has moved on to reading and receiving information 280 characters at a time. For those readers, being able to put together a short, pithy and marketable blurb is more important that the art and craft of writing. They’re similar, they’re cousins, but it’s a slightly different skillset.
However, as it has been since Gutenberg, proper writing is the best way to get across complex issues and philosophies—whether in fiction or non-fiction. As an art form, it’ll never die, just as visual art hasn’t died with the advent of digital art—it’ll just evolve.
Do you have a set process when starting a new project?
My process for writing poems is simple. I don’t usually write long-form poetry, so I find a flash of inspiration and I go with it for as many words or lines as it takes. I don’t rework poetry particularly, and I post almost all of it on Instagram—I need to produce something on a consistent basis. If I disappear right now, no one’s going to sit around thinking, “what happened to @whirlpool_of_crows”?
I’m not very good at short stories, I don’t think. Mine are more like ideas for novels that don’t have the legs to make it there. For that reason, I only share or submit the rare, rare few that feel like real, complete works.
My process for writing novels is consistently evolving as I learn and grow. My first book, “Decline”, was built on a lot of somewhat disparate scenes (including a few vivid dreams I had). Over three or four years, I must have written two separate books of chapters and scenes I ended up discarding. Writing “Mya” and “Underside of Wars” were more harmonious experiences. I don’t do deeply descriptive outlines, but I did learn to plan a bit better and find more satisfying connective tissue between each scene or chapter. Aside from that, I try not to confine my creativity to any one specific cage (including word counts).
With respect to inspiration: I draw from what I can see and feel and experience. I’m not a social or political commentator—I don’t feel that I’m qualified. So, I find inspiration more in mood and energy, and in topics like addiction and mental health and wellness.
What has been your favourite book to write and why?
They’re my children and I love them all equally. Just kidding. I’ll try to avoid clichés like that.
They are all deeply personal—which isn’t exactly novel (no pun intended)—but I think Mya is my most inspired book. It’s brimming with atmosphere and moodiness and deep, deep feeling. On the other hand, Underside of Wars is probably the most relevant to me personally. It’s more pulpy than Decline or Mya, and thus more readable, but it has quite a nice kick at the end. At least, I get a little misty when I finish it.
Which genre do you enjoy writing in?
I don’t know that I have a “genre”, per se. I feel and can be more humorous than most of my work might imply, which I hope readers see some of in Underside of Wars. I like romance in my books, but they aren’t romances. There’s some horrific elements, but they’re not horror.
Tragedy? Can I call that a genre? It used to be one, so I’m going to go with it. I like, and feel adept at, writing tragedies.
Is writing your primary source of income?
Yes and no. I write and edit for my day job, but in my office under the buzzing fluorescent lights, it’s work that’s not in-the-least creative or fulfilling. Right now, my personal creative writing is my pursuit, my hobby, and my passion. It’s my reason for being. It’s a reason to create and contribute. Without it, I’m nothing and no one. So, from my creative pursuits, I have a wealth of words, but no real wealth.
While my job is soul-destroying—and it truly is a 1984 nightmare a lot of the time—it does sit me in front of a computer all day. As such, it is perhaps a little easier for me to carve out moments during the day to do some personal writing than it is for some.
What advice can you give our readers, should they wish to pursue writing?
Without resorting to quaint platitudes about following your dreams and never giving up—and putting aside the overnight successes—I would just vehemently remind people that, like pursuing any skill or passion, it can be a slog, and for every little crest, there’s a gaping Mariana Trench-low that you have to persist through. Especially in modern writing, where everyone is at least moderately literate and everyone has a story to tell, there’s a lot of competition for eyeballs.
Self-publishing has also provided an avenue for anyone who can string together twenty pages of words to add to that competition. You have to be zen about it, accept that there’s no guarantees, and in the end, be content with your efforts (though never ever satisfied).
I guess there were some pretty generic platitudes in there. But I suppose that’s why they’re repeated—they’re true.
What does success mean to you?
That’s tough to define. It won’t be a dollar amount nor a follower count. I think that, like for most people, it’s a moving target. Once someone achieves a goal, they see the next goal as the ultimate peak. Then, when they’ve scaled that peak, the peak after that becomes the ultimate goal.
For me, true success will probably be more ephemeral. I want to move people, I want them to feel when they’ve read my work. I want them to leave my work, but not have my work leave them. The irony of this is that I will probably never know if/when I’ve achieved success.
What projects are you currently working on?
I have two projects in states of varying disrepair, which is putting it kindly. They’re not ready to be shared. One is intended to be highly marketable and palatable to a wide, generic audience, while the other is the antithesis, like a retort to the first—it’s dark and sadistic, like a fairy tale told by Patrick Bateman. Whether either will ever be completed is entirely up in the air.
Alternatively, I could say that my ongoing work is on my online presence and self-marketing. For instance, I recently posted the first chapter of Underside of Wars on my website at www.whirlpoolofcrows.net.
What are your hopes for the future?
For me or for the world? If I can be honest—and I think I can be—I’m extremely self-absorbed. I’m an onion of neuroses, and it’s difficult cutting through each layer to the surface to gain perspective and be more altruistic. Regardless, as I mentioned before, I don’t think I’m qualified to sermonize.
For me, I’m looking for some faith: an agent or publisher who believes in me, in my work, in the corporeal value of writing that resonates. But that would merely be the conveyance. I hope to gain a readership that loves to read and loves to be challenged to think and to empathize. And if I can be slightly schmaltzy, I hope readers will learn through my writing that there’s beauty even amongst so much evil and ugliness—however one chooses to define those terms.
Lastly where can people find you?
A good place to find me is on Instagram @whirlpool_of_crows, which has become a snapshot into my internal life and has a lot of writing examples.
If people like what they see there, I’d urge them to check out my novels on Amazon.com at the following shortened links:
Underside of Wars (https://amzn.to/34pgbjr)
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