Today, author Jamie Mason joins us to talk about her new novel, Three Graves Full (which has a helluva title and an, erm, more helluva-er premise). Here, then, are her ten answers:
Tell Us About Yourself: Who The Hell Are You?
Now there’s a loaded question if ever I’ve heard one. Instant existential crisis. As it happens, I’m a collection of likes, dislikes, and memories inside a fairly government-issue female container. I have examples, see?
Likes: Bedsheets fresh out of the laundry.
Dislikes: Ticking clocks.
Remembers: When I was six years old, I heard on the radio that our area was under a Tornado Advisory. My mother was not listening to the broadcast and, not wishing to alarm her with my blooming heroism, I snuck out. I quietly rounded up my five-year-old sister and the kid from the apartment downstairs. Armed all with tablespoons, I marched out my platoon under roiling skies, all the way to the neighborhood entrance.
There, at the base of the sign pillar for King’s Garden Apartments, three intrepid children, under my command, dug a hole. It was a pretty good hole, too. Good enough so that, by design, if that tornado dared turn our way, it would trip in our tablespoon trench, fall over, and dissipate across the main drive.
King’s Garden Apartments still stands today. You’re welcome, citizens. You’re welcome.
As for the standard, government-issue female container, well, I guess my picture is on the back flap of the book.
Other than that I grew up in the Washington DC area and now live in the mountains of Western North Carolina with my husband and two daughters.
Give Us The 140-Character Story Pitch:
When hired gardeners discover a body buried in the yard, the homeowner is horrified. But mostly because it’s not the body he’d buried out back a long time ago.
Where Does This Story Come From?
THREE GRAVES FULL came from throwing a tantrum over another story I was writing. It just wasn’t working. A writer friend, Graeme Cameron (you don’t know him, but you will,) suggested that I set it aside rather than gnash my teeth to nubs. He offered an exercise in its place: I was to seek out a list of interesting headlines compiled from various newspapers.
I was under strict instructions not to read the articles. I had to pick one, then write a story that would result that headline.
The one I chose read: Landscapers Find Skull In Mulch Bed.
I still don’t know what real news story (and presumably tragedy) sparked the article, but what I was left with was Chapter One.
How Is This A Story Only You Could’ve Written?
Given the Rule of Infinite Monkeys, I’m not sure how to answer that. I don’t think I’m more special than Shakespeare. Certainly the process that results in a story is different for every writer, every time – parts of the story seem to float into your ear from the schizophrenic nowhere, some things feel like they get chiseled out of stubborn granite, and some stuff is pulled like taffy from the goo pits in the darker places of your mind. Those bits usually have to be rinsed off.
In the case of THREE GRAVES FULL, I rotated through the nuthouse, the quarries, and the quicksand in a particular sequence, doubling back and do-si-do, lather, rinse, repeat. If those steps were to be exactly duplicated I would rather suspect a glitch in the Matrix.
What Was The Hardest Thing About Writing THREE GRAVES FULL?
The not knowing if it would go anywhere, if anyone would buy it. With fiction, you have to write the entire book up front (and rewrite it, and polish it, and write it some more, and change it, and change it back, etc.…) You have to go over and over it before even attempting to get an agent, which is still miles away from getting a publishing contract. And it’s hard work; consuming − but it’s voluntary. And that’s a problem. There is no keyboard mandate and the Muse certainly doesn’t put a gun to your head. It’s the hardest part. No one was making me do it. I could stop any time I liked. So I kept having to hurdle my inertia and work – work really hard. And the whole time there’s the Devil on my shoulder whispering, “Why do you bother? No one’s going want this. You’re going to do all this work and nothing will ever come of it…”
That shoulder devil is an asshole.
What Did You Learn Writing THREE GRAVES FULL?
That I’m not as good a typist as I ought to be. Seriously, I’ve written how many words and I still have to watch the keyboard? Pitiful.
I also learned about research. People will tell you anything if you tell them you’re writing a book. It’s awesome.
What Do You Love About THREE GRAVES FULL?
I love that it’s horrible-funny in the same way you sometimes laugh when you bang your knee. Pain is not funny, and certainly neither is murder, but life can be funny in how wrong things can go.
What Would You Do Differently Next Time?
I would (and will) try to get that shoulder devil to piss off. I’d try to work more diligently with less resistance, because a bad day writing is still a hell of a lot better than even a good day at a whole lot of other things.
Give Us Your Favorite Paragraph From The Story:
I don’t know that I have a favorite, but I’m fond of this one and it stands alone better than some others. I think. I dunno. Maybe?
“Strangely though, it wasn’t recalling the muffled crunch of bone that plagued him, nor the memory of the cleaning afterward, hours of it, all the while marveling that his heart could pound that hard for that long. No. It was that first shovelful of dark dirt spraying across the white sheet at the bottom of the grave that came to him every time he closed his eyes to sleep. Was it deep enough? He didn’t know—he wasn’t a gravedigger. Then again, in his mind he wasn’t a murderer either, but facts are facts.”
What’s Next For You As A Storyteller?
Right now I’m working on another novel, one that I hope would sit comfortably on the same shelf with THREE GRVAES FULL. It’s another crime/suspense type thing, but this time with a thread of the spy novel through it.