Today I had the pleasure of talking with Jacob Power, graphic designer and author of Frank Winston.
IDI – Jacob, tell me, when did you have your Eureka moment? When did you know that you were born to be a writer?
JP – I always enjoyed writing, yet I never gave it much thought until I reached high school. But, even then I never focused on it. The first time I can remember a teacher giving me any feedback as to what I wrote was for an essay. The assignment asked us to write about a moment in our life, so I chose a sunrise I witnessed while out hiking with the Boy Scouts. I hastily wrote the piece the night before it was due, turned it in, and waited. If I remember correctly it was one of the first essays of my junior year, and when the teacher came in a few days after I turned in the assignment I asked her if she had finished grading our rough drafts. Her eyes lit up as she exclaimed how wonderful my writing was. She wanted to read it to the class as an example of how to write such an essay. I asked her not to, and she agreed. No one up to that point in my life had had such a reaction to what I wrote. I received a 100 on the paper because she said she didn’t find anything wrong with the story. While I typed up the essay for our final draft I noticed there were in fact numerous errors. I then realized my teacher became engrossed in the story itself, she took her teacher hat off, and graded my paper on her enjoyment from the essay. It may sound a bit pretentious, but that’s the only way I can describe it. She was my first fan, other than my mother.
IDI – What do you find to be the hardest or most frustrating aspect of writing? Ideas, getting started, writer’s block, re-writing?
JP – Finding time is the most frustrating thing for me. I want to have a set time each day, but sometimes that’s not possible. I have a wife, three kids, two dogs, and a day job. So, I carve out whatever time I can when I can. Preferably, I like to start my day with coffee while typing out a thousand or so words. In reality it could be six o’clock in the afternoon, or one in the morning by the time I can actually sit down to get anything written. But, I keep trying.
IDI – How important are your reading habits to your writing habits?
JP – In the past, any time I spent away from writing was normally along the same time I was not reading much, or anything at all. However, any time I wanted to write, especially if it was writing fiction I would ramp up the amount I would read. It was obvious to me, even before I read Stephen King’s “On Writing,” or Ray Bradbury’s “Zen and the Art of Writing,” one action feeds the other.
IDI – Why do you write crime fiction?
JP – I never thought I’d write crime fiction, to be honest. I always thought I would write along the lines of Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch,” or John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden,” but one day I had an idea for a novel. The genre was nothing like I had ever written before so I wrote out a bunch of character descriptions and quasi outline for a story. Then I picked up a Dennis Lehane book, followed by some Elmore Leonard, George V. Higgins, James Lee Burke, and other such authors. I didn’t necessarily care for the detective novels, though they have their moments, but I liked exploring the world just under the table where all the shady deals take place. The more I explored the genre the more I liked what I read. Plus, The more I pondered over my idea the more intrigued I became until I had to write down what was playing out in my head. In short, writing crime fiction is fun. It’s thrilling to be able to step into the minds of some truly despicable characters and make them human by understanding what makes them tick. It gives me a chance to understand other people by exploring character traits I don’t agree with. With “Frank Winston,” I was able to have two craggy old guys cuss at each other in good nature, while getting into trouble. It was like listening to my grandfather and great-uncle talk to each other the way they always did. I’m not married to the genre, but for now I’m having too much fun writing about relatively bad people.
IDI – How did you get the idea for “Frank Winston?”
JP – A friend of mine sent me a news article about two guys who were arrested because they were driving around in a what the article described as a sniper van. The men arrested were older with vague ties to the mob. I kept the article in my mind because it sounded like it had potential for a story. About a month later the same friend and I decided to have a short story challenge. We set a deadline and chose to write something along the lines of the news story he had sent me. We called it “Grumpy Old Men in the Mob.” Each of us went our separate ways and wrote. At the deadline we shared our tales and critiqued each other’s work. My contribution was about two old guys who get in trouble while trying to make extra money. I have a blog, but it was too long to share and I didn’t want to break it up into pieces. After making a few changes based on the critique I decided to self publish the short story as another way of getting my work out there.
IDI – Story challenge, what a great idea! What are you working on now? Can we get a peek, an excerpt maybe to tickle our taste buds?
JP – I’m currently working on another short story I plan to self publish. It would be part of a series where certain characters, those who have small appearances, would weave in and out of the larger tale. Think of Kevin Smith’s characters Jay and Silent Bob. Though they have their own movie, they made small appearances in most of his movies serving as a link to its fictional universe. That’s what I’m doing here. Anyway, the story I’m working on now involves a bar owner who is part of an organization and hasn’t been keeping up with his payments to his boss. As a result, his boss is seeking retribution. The first line says it all.
“Tim, your place is going to be robbed tonight.”
The interesting part about this heist is how it takes place and that Tim, the main character of the story, knows it’s going to happen and takes action to stop it from occurring. Despite Tim’s efforts, he has a surprise coming to him I wish I could share, but you’ll have to wait a little longer.
IDI – What do you do when you’re not writing?
JP – I’m busy. I tend to focus my free time with my family, when I’m not at my day job or writing, I’m scurrying my kids to football, baseball, dancing, piano teachers, band practices, and so on. My kids are at the age where they’re trying out all kinds of things to see what they are good at, which is awesome and taxing at the same time. So, when I do get time to write I take it.
IDI – Hands down, bar none, all time favorite book.
JP – There are two books I would consider my all time favorite. Kurt Vonnegut’s “Timequake” and Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History” are the two books I have re-read several times. “Timequake” changed the way I wrote back when I was a journalist. It’s concise sentence structure and tone of the book was really eye-opening for me especially how he weaved fiction and non-fiction throughout the story. “The Secret History” ties for this spot because of the main character in the novel. When I first read it I was at a new college with very few friends. Much like the main character I formed friendships that shaped the person I am now. Granted, we didn’t become involved with murder, but the bonds we shared and the story itself paralleled my own life.
IDI – What advice would you give to new or unpublished authors?
JP – The only advice I can really give anyone when it comes to writing, whether it’s fiction, blogging, or whatever is to keep writing. Keep trying. Keep at it. I have to tell myself this. I have a self-published short story, but I do want to be traditionally published as well. If I want to become published through traditional methods I have to keep honing my craft and putting myself, and my work, out there. I’m normally a shy person so even this is out of my comfort zone, but that’s what makes this a remarkable thing. If I’m going to accomplish my dreams then I have to do something about it, and that goes for everyone else. Don’t become bogged down in excuses. Step out of the norm and get something done.
IDI – Although this interview focused on your writing, I’d like to let my readers know that you are also a graphic designer, husband, father, and you have a day job, which makes me even more appreciative that you made the time to talk with me.
JP – It was my pleasure, Kathy. Thank you for having me.
“Frank Winston,” a short story set in southern Louisiana about two grumpy old ex-cons who give each other as much trouble as they get into. Enjoy the blurb:
Two elderly ex-cons, Frank and Winston, attempt to make some extra money with the recent purchase of a customized used van. Curt Ferrero, a mid level gangster who has been stealing from his boss, recruits the men to transport some stolen goods to a buyer. As the owner of the stolen items learns of Ferrero’s plans he decides to put an end to Ferrero’s ways. Frank and Winston are now caught in the middle of an internal squabble in the mob that these grumpy old men don’t want to be a part of. They just want some extra cash, but will they be able get out without getting into trouble?
Jacob Power lives in West Monroe, LA with his wife, three children, and two dogs. He is a native of Louisiana and enjoys traveling, hiking, reading, and writing when he can ever find time to do so. His short story “Frank Winston,” is the first installment of a short story series he is creating. Visit www.JPowerDesign.com for more information, samples of his writing, and portfolio of his graphic design work.
You can follow Jacob on twitter:@PowerJacobE
“Frank Winston” is available here.