Matt Jones is a graduate student of creative writing at The University of Alabama. He is currently at work on his first novel.
Geosi Gyasi: At what point in your life did you see yourself as a writer?
Matt Jones: I started to see myself as a writer pretty recently. I mean, I’ve had this very amorphous and conspicuous feeling that I was for a long time, or at least that I wanted to be one, but I only started to refer to myself (in my own head) as a writer during the last year or so.
Geosi Gyasi: What are your interest areas as a writer?
Matt Jones: Science and myth. I like to try and combine the two, mythology and science, whether personal or societal, to create some sort of mutation. Some sort of missing link that seems to answer some questions in my own mind. Or at least leads me to asking questions that I wasn’t asking before.
Geosi Gyasi: What do you regard as good writing?
Matt Jones: I think I could go on here about beautiful language and innovative structure and provocative ideas all as things that I appreciate in writing, but I won’t, because good means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. So I’ll speak about “good” in terms of what I would like to accomplish as a writer. Good writing for me is writing that makes me feel invested in characters, which in turn helps me feel invested in plot or what happens to those characters. Good writing has momentum. These are all things that I’ve only been able to identify recently. I guess that I want to write things that I like to read, not in terms of subject matter, but in terms of crafting characters and story that readers care about.
Geosi Gyasi: How did you come to write, “Abi Abbey Abbie Alexander” as published in One Throne Magazine?
Matt Jones: I had a really indistinct feeling of sadness that I attached to a very specific event. I’ve always been really interested in temporality, in how we exist inside of time, in how we develop a relationship with memory and future. There’s a lot of déjà vu in life, you know? Not exactly premonition or a perfect repetition or replica of events, but of feelings. Familiarity of feelings. I think memory, or at least particularly strong memories, allow you to live in a lot of different places at a lot of different times. That’s what I was thinking about when writing this.
Geosi Gyasi: How do you start a story?
Matt Jones: With a line. I start with a line that sounds good and then go from there. Sometimes, often in fact, I end up going back to delete that line and the many lines that followed that first one, especially during the drafting process after I’ve had some time to think about what kind of story I’m trying to tell. But for me, it usually helps to just write something, to put words on paper. Then at least I can start to get the sense of whether it feels right or wrong.
Geosi Gyasi: How do you end a story?
Matt Jones: I’m not quite sure. I guess I think that an ending should resolve something, but also provoke the reader to further imagination or wondering that goes beyond the written ending. Either that or I read it aloud to my fiance and gage her reaction.
Geosi Gyasi: How is your writing schedule like?
Matt Jones: I write a lot over the weekends. I’ve also been really lucky to have the chance to attend a graduate writing program. On days when I’m not teaching or in class, I write. I try for at least 20 hours a week, but I go through periods of months or weeks when I’m only journaling and brainstorming, trying to work through what I’m trying to say, but not necessarily writing.
Geosi Gyasi: Whom do you regard as your favourite writer?
Matt Jones: I’m not sure. I’ve read a lot of writers that I really like.
Geosi Gyasi: How did you hear about One Throne Magazine?
Matt Jones: Through the internet grapevine.
Geosi Gyasi: Is there any single book that has affected your life as a writer?
Matt Jones: Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist is a book that really affected me. I read it in college. It created this desire for learning and experience that never dissipated. I don’t think I’ve ever identified with a character in the way I identified/identify with Santiago.
Geosi Gyasi: What do you hope to achieve with your writing?
Matt Jones: I want to make an impression, whether good or bad. If someone can come away with an identifiable feeling after reading something I’ve written (and perhaps I’m thinking more in terms of the book I’m writing), then that works for me. Reading helps me think through the world and myself. If I don’t like something, then I have to think about why I didn’t like it. If I do like something, then I have to think about why. If I’m not sure about how I felt, well, more thinking. More thinking about why I react in a certain way. In this sense, I’d like my writing to provoke that same kind of thought or feeling.
Geosi Gyasi: What are you currently working on?
Matt Jones: I’m writing a novel that deals with space exploration.
Geosi Gyasi: What is the most boring part of writing?
Matt Jones: I don’t know if writing is boring. It’s hard. It frustrates me, but it doesn’t bore me.
Geosi Gyasi: What is the most exciting part of writing?
Matt Jones: Exploring characters. When I figure out the motivation of a person that doesn’t exist, then I feel like they become real.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you think a writer ought to compulsorily study writing?
Matt Jones: I think that writers should read and write. Whether we recognize it or not on a conscious level, we study writing when we read the writing of others. And then there’s experience.
Geosi Gyasi: How difficult is it to write a short story?
Matt Jones: Sometimes things come easy and other times I slog through the same paragraph of the same story for months. I leave more stories unfinished than I ever complete. The stories I do end up completing (and liking) often look unrecognizable when compared to the ideas that sparked them.
Geosi Gyasi: Have you ever been rejected by publishers or editors for your works?
Matt Jones: More often than not. Rejection is a staple of the writer’s life.
Geosi Gyasi: What is the best thing that has ever happened to you as a writer?
Matt Jones: I don’t know. Part of me thinks that the best is yet to come. Another part of me thinks that the best thing is a feeling that repeats itself whenever I am able to have some sense of clarity about what I’m doing.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you have anything to say to end the interview?
Matt Jones: I guess I’ll bring this back around to the The Alchemist, to an exchange of dialogue that I’ve never forgotten:
“My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer,” the boy told the alchemist one night as they looked up at the moonless sky.
“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”