Jamie Ford is a new novelist, breaking onto the literary scene with HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET. He’s also an essayist, blogger, and an example of grace under fire.
We’d like to thank him for taking the time to be part of our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.
AuthorScoop: What was your very first publication credit?
Jamie: Fiction-wise, you’re kinda looking at it. Sure, I had a lot of flash fiction and short fiction published online, but Hotel was really my first foray into deep waters.
And to be fair, I’m not counting articles I’ve written for business publications, ad campaigns, commercials, videos and such. I even wrote part of a speech for the governor of Montana, years ago. Very surreal to hear my words coming out of her mouth. Frightening too. I think I stopped believing the words of politicians at that very moment.
AuthorScoop: Tell us about your latest release.
Jamie: Well, I can tell you that Publishers Weekly shredded it on the same day that
Costco chose it as their pick for February. Followed by an IndieBound NEXT List selection, a Barnes & Noble’s New Reads Book Club selection, and a nod from the Borders Original Voices Program. Hey PW—I ain’t mad atcha, I ain’t got nothin’ but love for ya.
But beyond that, HOTEL is the story of the Japanese Internment in Seattle during WWII, but seen through the eyes of a 12-year old Chinese boy, named Henry. Henry is sent by his father to an all-white private school to ostensibly “become more American” and there he meets Keiko, a young Japanese girl sent by her parents for similar reasons. There they form a unique friendship and innocent love, amid the hysteria and chaos in the wake of the bombings of Pearl Harbor. But it’s also the story of Henry, as a grown man, reflecting on the choices he made, the things he said, or left unspoken, all those years ago. At its core, it’s a love story.
AuthorScoop: Aside from your own hard work, who else do you feel has contributed to your success?
Jamie: Orson Scott Card. When I attended his literary bootcamp, he worked us like rented mules. It was exhausting and exhilarating too. One night he treated everyone to this fabulous dinner at a Brazilian restaurant and I remember him telling me, “You should send your short story to the New Yorker,” I was flattered. Then he continued, “Of course they accept a lot of crap, but they don’t always accept crap, so you might have a shot.” It was a very jangled compliment, but it was a real confidence booster. (The New Yorker soundly rejected me, by the way).
That workshop also broke some of my bad habits—namely over-writing––or writing to impress my audience. Instead, I went the other direction, learning to write less, but constantly banking or spending emotional currency with the reader.
Basically, I arrived at that workshop as a writer and left as a storyteller.
AuthorScoop: At what time of day or night do you do your best writing?
Jamie: When the voices in my head stop mocking me. (Morning, usually).
AuthorScoop: Finally, what advice would you give to new or unpublished writers?
So many newbie writers try to write the “Great American Novel” on their first go, and upon failing, decide they have no talent. It’s not like that. Think of writing as a craft––something akin to playing a musical instrument. You wouldn’t sit down at a piano for the first time and expect to play Beethoven, would you? Or course not. You learn scales, you plink away at Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, you go through the motions––sometimes for years before you’re playing anything that anyone would actually want to listen to.
So allow a healthy margin for improvement.
Now storytelling on the other hand…