In this post, I will have a chat with Jack moody, the author of Dancing to Broken Records anthology, staff writer of the literary magazine, and podcast Brick Moon Fiction, about his upcoming transgressive autobiography. This autobiographical novel is about his experiences over a couple of years after checking in to a psychiatric hospital in 2018 when he was only 24, and all the fallout that followed from his pretty severe alcoholism, Borderline Personality Disorder, and PTSD. Let's dig in :)
Hi Jack. Happy New year and Happy New Book. Let’s start with your
Autobiographical novel “Crooked Smile”. Why did you choose this
It began with a conversation I had with an old regular at the bar I used to frequent. When I was an infant, I had a stroke. It paralyzed a lot of the muscles in the right side of my body—luckily nothing horribly debilitating—but it did cause me to lose pretty much all dexterity in my right hand and affected my facial muscles. When I smile it’s lopsided. So I was talking to the guy about this, and he told me that it wasn’t a result of a stroke, but it was my body showing me what my mind was trying to tell me: That I thought I was a happy person, but really the life I was living was killing me, and somewhere deep inside I understood that I was masking my depression with substances, and telling myself that I was content. Obviously, this was a fuckin’ stupid diagnosis from a drunken barstool philosopher, but he wasn’t wrong. And the metaphor was interesting to me. So that’s a running theme throughout the novel—this character stumbles through his life, abusing alcohol and creating chaos everywhere he goes, telling himself that he enjoys the drama and chaotic nature of his lifestyle, but really this is just something he has to tell himself, because otherwise he’d have to face the deeper reasons for why he is an alcoholic and why he constantly exhibits all this self-destructive behavior. And over the course of the novel he’s forced to reconcile with these things, looking inward at the root causes of his behavior, and has to then make the decision to either change or accept that what he’s doing is going to kill him.
I was a happy person, but really the life I was living was killing me
I wonder how many of us feeling the same and keep ignoring it. Without spoilers, can you tell us what is this book about?
Crooked Smile is about a person’s rock bottom. It’s about the results of years of ignored trauma and mental illness, left to fester beneath coping mechanisms until those mechanisms no longer work, and the fallout spills over into every facet of that person’s life. I suppose it could be considered a recovery novel, but that’s an oversimplification. At it’s core, Crooked Smile is a black comedy about an anti-hero who is thrown through the ringer by his own actions, and has to finally make a decision—whether or not to tear open unhealed scars and treat the spiritual infections left underneath—when forced to come face-to-face with the inevitable bleak outcome of the life he’s chosen.
But it can be a recovery novel. For me, Transgressive fiction and non-fiction are the best way to express oneself and what is wrong with our society. What is your reason to categorize your writings under this genre?
Honestly, I don’t really consider my writing transgressive fiction. People do, and that’s fine, but I just write stories about real people. And when you don’t shy away from the true nature of people and reality, it will inevitably skew towards darker subject matter. People are fucked up. Life can be fucked up. My goal with my art is honesty—to paint true, three-dimensional portraits of my characters, warts and all. I want the reader to be able to sympathize and find commonality with the types of people they’d normally dismiss or demonize. We all have trauma, and methods of coping with it, and some people embrace that while others don’t. I just want to display the humanity and depth of those who people would be quick to paint as the villain. Because I believe that the vast majority of people who do wrong, even evil things, aren’t inherently evil. They’re in pain. And when you understand that, it’s much easier to relate to and sympathize with those people, even if you don’t like who they are. But you don’t have to. Just see them as human, like everyone else. That’s my goal as a writer. If that makes it transgressive, then so be it.
Agreed. That's why in an article I argued that Transgressive fiction is more about real people than just sex and brutality. Are you currently working on other books? Can you tell us about your future or current projects?
Well, my first book Dancing to Broken Records, a collection of short stories that features some vignettes of the same autobiographical main character in Crooked Smile, has a 2nd Edition coming out on January 21st through Beacon Publishing Group. The preorder is available now. It serves as an effective prequel to my debut novel, so I think it’s worth reading if anyone plans on buying Crooked Smile when it releases through Outcast Press on March 15th. I’m also about a third of the way through my second collection of short stories at the moment. I don’t have a set title yet, but I’ve been branching out into different genres—more surreal stuff, horror-esque stuff, but also a fair amount of dirty realism and a bit of autobiographical fiction. I’ve been getting the stories published in different literary magazines as I write them, so there are already quite a few out there to read that will be in the final, full-length book: The stories Theo’s Masterpiece, The Absence of Death, An Occurrence at the Funeral of Joshua Miller, and Pink Elephants are all out now with the amazing magazine A Thin Slice of Anxiety. There’s also one autobiographical short story out now with Horror Sleaze Trash titled Welcome Home, Inmate #Whogivesashit—about my experience going to jail at eighteen—that will also be in the collection.
That's inspiring. About the publishing process. Would you mind explain how the novel “Crooked Smile” is published? As the Transgressive genre is quite a difficult and risky genre to publish classically, I’m curious to know more about your experience in this field?
I found out about my current publisher, Outcast Press, through Natalie Nider, who now works for them and actually ended up editing the novel. (Congrats and thank you, Natalie.) I knew that Crooked Smile would be a tough sell, given its tone and subject matter, and Outcast seemed like a really progressive and risk-taking press (turns out they absolutely are) that we're looking specifically for books like mine. The founder and EIC Sebastian Vice immediately saw what I saw in the book, and accepted the manuscript right away. I’m incredibly thankful for him, Natalie, Paige Johnson—who does beautiful work with editing and formatting the manuscripts—and everyone who’s a part of the Outcast team. They are all fantastic at what they do. I can’t speak highly enough of Outcast Press and the whole process of getting my novel published with them. You are right though, work like mine is a difficult thing to publish, and partly because of that it’s been difficult to break into this industry. Most magazines, presses, and agencies aren’t interested in the type of controversy it tends to drum up. But there are places out there for more fringe artists, and I’m thankful for the impact that my work has been able to have in the literary world—however small it may be.
Last, what advice would you offer to writers, many of whom are struggling to be creative right now, on how to keep momentum on the work when the world around feels somewhat stranger than fiction?
My advice is not to take my advice. I say more stupid things than smart things. I honestly don’t know how I’ve made it this far. Dumb luck and bullheadedness, I suppose. I’m a pretty fucking good writer, though. I won’t take that away from myself. I’m doing what I was meant to be doing if such a thing exists. I’m very thankful for the mind and the life I’ve got, warts and all.
Thank you, Jack, for joining us, and can't wait to get my paws on your new book. If you're interested to know more about Jack and his books please check the following links:
Link to Dancing to Broken Records 2nd. Edition preorder: Amazon