Thursday, May 11, 2017

Author Interview: NOWHERE NEAR: STORIES by Teddy Jones

Teddy Jones

  Genre: Short Stories / Literary Fiction / West Texas
Publisher: Midtown Publishing, Inc.
Date of Publication: May11, 2017
Number of Pages: 206

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Characters in the eleven stories in Nowhere Near act in ways that some might call “divinest madness.” Some of them have been pushed near their limits by years of stress. Others mourn and grieve and discover feelings they can’t admit aloud. A sense of duty drives another to believe in aliens, at least for a while. Some of their behavior is simply laughable, other flirts with death, and the rest ranges from dangerous to near heroic. These characters vary widely, yet all have in common that they live in or come from West Texas, where spaces are wider and tolerance for strangeness seems just a bit greater. Whether readers agree these characters are nowhere near crazy, they may admit they all are doing what humans do—what makes sense to them at the time.

Praise for Nowhere Near:
“Teddy Jones writes about plainspoken people whose lives are entangled and wrought and marked by routine—routines they cherish, routines they wish to escape—and who glimpse, now and again, a sense of something beyond their ability to reason. The stories in Nowhere Near are deep, honest, and unsentimental, and they pierce you to the bone.—Robert Boswell, author of Tumbledown & The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards

There’s so much goodness in these stories, the kind of goodness that grows out of characters who endure hard lessons leading them to revelations and deep understanding. You’ll find real people here, with real heartaches and mistakes and regrets. With language as true as music, a steady and perceptive eye, and at times a blazing humor, Teddy Jones creates fully imagined and realized worlds. Subtly, she makes strangeness ordinary and the ordinary strange. You will recognize the people in this book the way you recognize your own neighbors and friends and co-workers and family: full of annoying quirks and surprises and, finally, a saving grace.”—Eleanor Morse, author of White Dog Fell From the Sky

"Teddy Jones is the real deal. With her characteristic wit and goodhearted characters, Jones draws a bead on West Texas life as it's currently lived. Her precise ear for the rhythms of life and language guides the reader confidently from dry land farming to the double life of dreams and secrets. These stories stuck with me and left me wanting more." –Summer Wood, author of Raising Wrecker

How has being a Texan influenced your writing?

I am a product of my background. If we admit it, aren’t we all? I grew up in a small town in the western half of Texas, not far from the small town that produced Larry McMurtry. Living there meant hearing the language of people whose phrases reflect their work in the oilfield and agriculture or in businesses that depend on one or the other of those. Those early experiences, the language, the scents, and scenes of those places find their way in some form or another into almost everything I write. Although like most young people, I was eager to leave there, I never have left rural West Texas behind.

I choose to write about characters or settings or both from Texas, even though there are other interesting places I could choose. That’s because the universals that are present in individuals of all cultures can be contrasted with or magnified by a focus on the specifics and particulars of any place an author chooses. I choose Texas and in particular, West Texas, because I love the sounds of the speech, the phrases, the ways of behaving that were imprinted on me early and which I can still see today among those I encounter in the rural area where I now live.

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?

I believe it was in the seventh grade, maybe slightly later, when I was absolutely enthralled by the effect of short stories. In just a few short pages, authors could place me as the reader in action and a setting that I became a part of, could evoke emotion that my junior high school “I am so cool” façade kept well hidden. Biographies had influenced me, providing exemplary feats of amazing people, offering much to which a young person might aspire. But it was fiction that truly captured me. That made me a reader who favored reading fiction of all sorts as one of my favorite forms of recreation. When I finally allowed myself to return to study creative writing I chose fiction as my special focus because I hoped to learn to prompt that same reaction in readers that I experienced in the seventh grade. Beyond that, there’s a freedom in writing fiction that non-fiction doesn’t permit, even what is now known as creative non-fiction. A writer of fiction is at liberty to create worlds, individuals, places, and all the rest that goes into forming a story worth reading. Who else among writers has such freedom and such challenges?

Where did your love of reading come from?

It’s hard to isolate a single source. The fact that I grew up before television was a twenty-four-hour fact of life, when there were radio programs for children that featured fiction and drama, might have contributed to my sense that reading was a good way to entertain myself. There were always books in our house and my grandmother’s and I was free to read anything I chose. Like many who love to read, I recall early experiences in school that rewarded reading. Receiving My Weekly Reader each Wednesday at elementary school was a high point for me. One other factor that probably encouraged my reading was the emotion typical of many young people—that I really didn’t belong in the family I was part of, in the town where I lived, etc. So reading was the perfect way to be elsewhere, to be other than I was. It still works for me even though now the “other than I am” sense is not for escape but as a way of understanding others.

What kind of writing do you do?

I write fiction, both long form (novels) and short (short stories). My work could best be described as realist fiction, some of which is set in contemporary times, although I’ve enjoyed writing some that takes place in earlier times. The research for the historical situation surrounding a story always interests me because the context in which characters are placed affects them, as in real life. I also tend to emphasize the setting of the story, and the effects of the setting on the characters. That’s because I believe our surroundings affect us at a visceral level of which we are often not fully aware, yet which often prompts or colors our choices and our actions.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

I can tell you what teachers, mentors, and reviewers have said about my writing—that I have well-drawn characters, that the language reflects the setting and is often colorful, that the stories come across as unsentimental, yet piercing in the emotion that is conveyed. My intent, and I hope I accomplish it more often than not, is to write stories that draw a reader into the lives of the characters so they feel they know them and care about them, perhaps even find something of themselves there.

What do you like to read in your free time?

I would like to say there’s a method to my choice. But that’s not true. It depends on my mood and what I’ve read or heard about an author or the work. Most often, I read fiction. I really enjoy reading short stories. So I read “Best American Short Stories of X year” when those come out. I read police procedurals with strong characters, as a guilty treat, just eat them up and will read all an author writes with a particular protagonist, until they begin to repeat themselves. I enjoy novels of all sorts. Currently I have been selecting family sagas because I am working on a third novel which has turned into a family saga.

Today I have on the side table some non-fiction—The Making of Donald Trump by David Cay Johnston, On Dialogue by David Bohm, and Fear on Trial, about John Henry Faulk’s fight against blacklisting. I also try to stay current with The Economist and The New York Review of Books and other publications that keep me aware of issues that might inform my writing of contemporary stories. There are never enough hours to devote to reading, as far as I’m concerned. But the fact that at our house we don’t have television, and we watch only what we choose from Prime and Netflix, frees up a lot of time.

Teddy Jones has been a nurse, nurse practitioner, university professor, college dean, and occasional farmhand. She grew up in a small north Texas town, Iowa Park, and gained college degrees in nursing at Incarnate Word and University of Texas, a Ph.D. in Education at University of Texas at Austin, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. She held nursing, teaching, and administrative positions in Austin, Denver, and Lubbock and as a family nurse practitioner in Texas and New Mexico. Writing fiction was her “when I know enough and have the time” dream all those years. Now she and her husband live near Friona, in the Texas Panhandle, where her husband farms and she writes full time. 
One Grand Prize: Signed copies of both Nowhere Near and Jackson’s Pond, Texas, set of 10 hollyhock notecards, and a 11x15 print of the cover art from Jackson’s Pond.
1st Runner-Up: Signed copy of Nowhere Near + choice of notecards or print
Next Three Winners: choice of notecards or print
May 11-20, 2017

Author Interview 1
Scrapbook Page 1
Scrapbook Page 2
Author Interview 2

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1 comment:

  1. Hey Teddy - another feather in your cap with Nowhere Near! Congrats and may sales soar!