Jeremy Tarr, debut author of (S)mythology, will be doing two book signings in the Sacramento area come Saturday, July 30th. But, before he sits for hours signing books he sat and answered a few questions about his book and about who he is.
Thank you Jeremy Tarr for taking the time in sharing a few minutes of your time in answering some questions about yourself and about your book, (S)Mythology. I know my readers will enjoy this interview immensely.
Question 1: Firstly, can you tell us a little about yourself and how it came about that you wrote (S)Mythology?
In the Autumn of 2004, I fell completely in love with a girl – head-over heels, violins-playing, clichéd “in love.” She was going through a rather tough period in her life, so I wrote a short story for her called “A Tale for Sophie” to cheer her up. That story consisted of much of the first Act of (S)mythology. I started writing it on a Friday night and I’d finished it by Monday morning. I spent the next several days drawing illustrations for it and gave it to her by the end of the week.
Question 2: What is (S)Mythology about and who do you believe will enjoy it?
At heart, it’s a fairy tale about love and the mythology that we interweave into the process of falling in and out of love. But because it’s a fairy tale, it’s also about witches and sorcerers and devils and heroes and villains and mermaids.
I think the book can be enjoyed by anyone from ages 10 to 110 with any sort of longing for whimsy and a liking of the fantastic.
Question 3: Where did the idea come from, to have such a tragic occurrence happen if someone looks at her?
I blatantly ripped it off from Medusa. No doubt, I’ll be expecting a lawsuit from her shortly.
Question 4: Did you know Katy Smail before the project or did the project bring you together?
I was shown Katy’s work by a friend of mine in 2007. If it’s possible to fall in love with illustrations, I did right then and there. She was living in Edinburgh at the time and I was in Los Angeles. We wrote back and forth. I’d send her short stories and she’d send me illustrations. We share a lot of the same loves and inspirations, so our work seemed to instantly connect. I brought (S)mythology to her in December of 2008, by that point she had moved to Brooklyn. We worked on it through all of 2009 and we didn’t actually meet each other face to face until last January in the dead of freezing winter in the East Village in Manhattan. We drank gin and talked for hours.
Question 5: Had you always wanted to have illustrations in your book or did that come later?
As I mentioned earlier, I’d originally created my own (somewhat crude) illustrations for the book – so I always knew it needed them. But it wasn’t until I saw Katy’s work that I knew it not only needed them, but they had to be hers!
Question 6: Was there any other consideration to location for this story or was London a serious part of the story?
I was living in London when I wrote the book, so it just came about naturally.
Question 7: Now that your book has been published and been out for a few months have you gotten used to being a published author? or is it still surreal?
Writing is such a private and lonely thing, that it’s a bit weird when others – strangers – read what I’ve written. Until now, all the characters in the book lived exclusively in my brain and they had their adventures and conversations up there – it’s a bit schizophrenic, really – but now they’ve popped out and people read about them, so it feels very odd for strangers to know who my imaginary friends are.
Question 8: Was writing one of those things you had always wanted to do? Had you always wanted to be published?
I’ve written for as long as I can remember. It’s one of those things that have always made me happy.
Question 9: And just to get to know you a little bit better, If you had a yard sale tomorrow for all but 3 of your belongings, what 3 items would you absolutely keep?
There are so many practical things that I’d have to keep, like my phone and laptop. And I wouldn’t sell my underwear as I wouldn’t want shoppers rummaging around through my unmentionables. My father gave me a fountain pen that I would have to keep. And I’d also keep my grandfather’s pocket-watch and my other grandfather’s wristwatch. That’s more than 3, isn’t it? Let’s sell the underwear then!
Question 10: When you aren’t writing, what authors do you like to read and did any of them inspire you to write (S)Mythology?
My favorite author is Anthony Burgess, specifically Earthly Powers, the Enderby series and Kingdom of the Wicked, but he didn’t inspire any part of the book. I’d say the books that most inspired (S)mythology are Alice in Wonderland, The Little Prince and Master and Margarita. Some of Terry Southern’s nonsensical insanity may have rubbed off in the book occasionally as well.
Question 11: Are there any books you are currently reading? Which books are your top favorites? And what authors would you recommend to people who read your book (S)Mythology?
I go through phases where I read a book a week and then I don’t read anything for a couple of months. I’m currently slogging through Tropic of Cancer because it’s one of those books you’re supposed to read. I just recently finished Twenty Thousand Streets under the Sky by Patrick Hamilton and Augustus by John Williams. Patrick Hamilton and John Williams are two of the most underappreciated writers of the 20th Century. Everyone ought to read Hangover Square by Hamilton and Stoner by Williams – they’re unbelievable, out of this world, mind-shatteringly amazing! There aren’t enough adjectives to describe how amazing they are.
Question 12: I know a lot of Fantasy writers love to play Dungeons and Dragons or like to participate in Role Playing Games, are you one of those writers and which games if so?
I’ve actually never played a role playing game in my life. Though I did go to the Renaissance Faire a couple months ago. When I was a kid, I was always more into comic books than role playing fantasy. I used to be obsessed with comic books – mostly the villains: I always found them more interesting. Especially Dr. Octopus, the Red Skull and the Penguin. Batman was the only superhero I liked – mainly because of the Tim Burton movie. All of the other superheroes I thought were ridiculous: too gumdrop, go-get-‘em, goody-two-shoes.
Question 13: There are a lot of my readers who are writers and have the dream to be published one day, what are your words of wisdom to them?
You will meet rejection and you will meet failure, and it will hurt like hell – but writing is one of those things that some people just have to do. We’re like drug addicts. So, you keep going, like the last line of The Great Gatsby, “so we beat on, boats against the current…” That’s maybe a little cynical – but I would say, don’t worry about being published, just worry about writing well. Don’t try to please anyone but yourself. And, it’s a cliché, but you mustn’t give up.
Question 14: Has your life changed at all since you published your book and how?
Not really. Sometimes I get fan mail – that’s new.
Question 15: Are there any other books brewing in that brain of yours and will they be similar to (S)Mythology or are you going to try something different?
I’ve finished writing a book that will be part novel and part graphic novel. I’m working on it with one of my oldest friends, Louis Pieper, who’s a comic book artist. The novel is written and Louis has designed all of the characters, and now we meet weekly at a pub to thumbnail the actual boards. It’s completely different than (S)mythology and is about mobsters, terrorists, musicians and fashion models.
Katy and I have discussed a few ideas, as well, as we both want to work together again. I’m also about two chapters into something new, but I really don’t know what it is yet.
Question 16: Do you have a process for writing and can you describe it to us?
One of my favorite lines from Alice in Wonderland is when the King of Hearts instructs Alice on how to read a poem by saying, “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” That’s pretty much how I write.
Question 17: Do you believe writing is a skill or a talent? Do you have any suggestions to beginning writers which will help them on the path to becoming published?
I think the writing aspect is a bit of a skill – you can learn by writing and writing and writing some more. You can be taught, or you can teach yourself, how to string together some interesting sentences. I think storytelling is more of a talent. Scholars can debate on and on as to whether or not JK Rowling or Stephanie Meyer or Dan Brown are good writers – are their prose beautiful and meaningful and substantive? – but it’s undeniable that they have a certain amount of genius to be able to tell stories that can completely captivate millions and millions of people across a wide swath of ages and races and socio-economic statuses. And when the talent of storytelling and the skill of well-honed and beautiful writing come together, that’s when you get the best kind of book: that’s when you get that rare thing that goes on the list of “classics.”
Question 18: Was there anything that had to hit your proverbial cutting room floor when you were working on (S)Mythology, which you really wish you could have incorporated better? And will you use it in another book down the road?
There were a few chapters that were tossed – some bits about a doppelganger, something else about a strange snowstorm in Los Angeles – I have no idea if those things will pop up again, but probably not, because I don’t think they were all that interesting.
Question 19: Is there anything else that I have forgotten which you would love my readers to know about your book or about yourself?
Let me think… Oh! I know…. I’m not English. Some people think I’m English. I wrote (S)mythology as if I were an Englishman. But if people want to think I’m English, I’m very happy to indulge them in their beliefs.
Again, thank you for this opportunity. I hope your trip to California is safe and enjoyable. We will see you in Sacramento on July 30th at 4p and in Davis at 7:30p.