Tuesday Review: Interview with JT Weaver [08-27-2013]
As I continue to try to find my voice as a blogger, I find myself drawn into the role of book reviewer. As I continue on this pathway, a next step that I notice among other blogger reviewers is the INTERVIEW.
Since I am blogger friends with JT Weaver, who authored Uphill Both Ways, he’s my interview guinea pig. Thanks JT 🙂
Let’s begin with an ice breaker question.
What makes you laugh?
I guess I like intellectual humor; the kind of story that has you going in one direction and then at the last-minute gets you laughing at what you missed. I’ve never been a fan of slapstick Three Stooges type of humor. The Bill Cosby “Himself” album still cracks me up. I was raised on the droll tangentially humorous stories of my father and it became easy for me to adapt any of my own stories into the format that he used.
What do you think contributes to your success as an author?
To be honest, I don’t know what “success as an author” really means. I wrote some stories and then discovered that, without any approval process from the world of “Big 6” publishing, I could self-publish my book at almost no cost. Years ago being a published author meant you went through several gateways, signed your rights away, hired an agent, hired an editor, and were accepted and printed by Houghton-Mifflin. Because of these gateways, the title of “published author” carried with it an aura of prestige that perhaps no longer exists. While my stories were individually lauded and my book is 5-star rated and reviewed, it is also doing well in the marketplace.
The impetus of the project was to document the important parts of my life for my children in such a way that they could understand who I am. At the beginning of the project, there were no ideas or discussions about compiling these stories into a single volume; that discussion came later. The mere idea that someone outside the family might have the slightest interest in these stories is somewhat shocking to me. I am, of course, delighted that people enjoy them and even want to buy them, but that was never my intention.
Since you wrote this book to your kids, what is their reaction to your its publication?
“Congratulations Dad, what’s for dinner?” I haven’t really discussed it with them. I have a sense that they may be a bit uncomfortable with it all. From their point of view, this was supposed to be my “letters” to them. Now the world has access to it. It somehow has lost it’s personal appeal to them I think. Many of the stories in the book are familiar to them already. Some of them probably make them a little uncomfortable. Just because I was documenting my life for them didn’t mean that they had to read it now.
Another part of the emotions of a document like this is the finality of it all. I think to them it signals the beginning of the end. Kids grow up thinking their parents will be around forever and only when something happens, an illness or an accident, do they ever think that their parents are even mortal. They have both moved away from home and are leading their lives to the fullest. In their minds, they can visit Dad and Mom anytime they want. Reading this memoir may signal to them that a time will come when they won’t be able to do that. And to me, that’s OK. When they’re 60 and I’m long gone, this will be something I hope they will enjoy reading. I think they’ll like to reflect back on things and this will help them do that. Perhaps they’ll even want to read some of these stories to their own grandchildren, who knows?
What part has your wife played in getting this book off the ground?
At first, I just began writing a story. My wife, Karen, really wasn’t involved. Then I wrote a little something about Social Security and then something about the 2nd Amendment. Then I found the picture album my parents had made for me and wrote a story about one of those pictures. I honestly was just fooling around with it. As I was writing, Karen and my college roommate John were both reviewing each piece.
Then a discussion started among John, Karen, and I about what it was I was doing. They thought these stories were better than I did. At one point John said that he thought he was looking into my soul, and because he knew me so well, he was a little uncomfortable with it. From that came the idea came the thought from Karen that this would be a nice gift for the kids and it was then that I wrote the letter that would become the Prologue to the book. When I published that letter, the blogging community took notice and my readership exploded. At that point Karen got involved with every aspect of the writing.
What obstacles did you run into as you went through the process?
Generally, the writing was very easy. All I had to do was remember things that happened and write them down. It wasn’t like writing fiction where you have to make sure everything fits. In a memoir, if it happened, then it fits, plain and simple. The difficult part was the rigorous editing and publishing. I had no previous experience with any of these things so I had to learn it all for the first time. I am a consummate researcher so I spent many hours trying to understand everything.
I did have some difficulty with some of the chapters. Recounting military school and the death of my friend Rick was one, some of the experiences in my teen years were some others, and the last chapter was very difficult. What I found was that a wonderful healing that occurs when you commit these things to paper. I was surprised and gratified that the weight had been lifted.
Do you have another book in mind?
As I continue to write, I may consider compiling a large series of essays into a book. That would depend on the enthusiasm of my blog readers. If the quality of my writing stays up, and people want it, I can publish another book.
What place in the larger picture of American history do you think your book holds?
From my point of view, the answer is none. It’s something that we cannot know. The wonderful letters home from the Civil War are a perfect example. They were simple and innocent when they were written however; now give so much insight into life at that time. I cannot know what people will interest people in 100 years. To me this is a good look at what it was like to grow up in the 1950s and 1960s. It wasn’t an ideal life perhaps but then no one knows what that is. I just lived my life in the best way I could, married a wonderful woman, and raised two great kids.
What was your favorite period in your life?
The best part of my life began on August 22, 1984 and has continues every day. That was the day that I met Karen in San Francisco.
What surprised you as you went through this writing process?
Everything! I’ve never written anything before. I’m a pretty good storyteller like my father before me. In my mind, I simply placed myself in a favorite chair by the fireplace and enjoyed the warmth it gave me. I would enjoy some fine wine and aged cheese and daydream into the past. When the children came into the room before bedtime, I would tell them a story. What you read in my book are those stories; nothing more complicated or fancy about it. It was extremely easy to write these stories down because I had lived them. I think the most surprising thing for me was that there are people who like these stories.
What would you change if you were going to write another book?
The process would be the same, I think.
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If you enjoyed learning about John T. Weaver, then you will enjoy his website. You can go on his site and see what he’s working on now.
Have any of you written your memoir? It’s amazing how little our children actually know about our lives before they were born. Do JT’s motivations to write his story remind you your own? Would your children read it? How did the events in history touch your life? Let me know what you think! 🙂