is a lecturer at Pepperdine University and is the co-founder of Flatmancrooked Publishing. He writes criticism for The Millions, and his works of fiction have appeared in Monkeybicycle, Avery, Opium, and other magazines. His first book, We’re Getting On
, is currently getting rave reviews and he’ll soon be riding his bike up the west coast, from Los Angeles to Vancuver, to encourage others to read this fantastic book.
Do you have a favorite quote? If so, why is it your favorite?
Roberto Bolaño says in “The Part About Archimboldi,” near the end of 2666, that “The life of a man is only long enough to fully enjoy the works of another man.” I mention this quote because I think new writers sometimes consume too much, thinking that quantity, rather than quality, will encourage their artistic development. If I have any advice for new authors, it’s this: Choose a few authors, or even one author, or even one book, and study it doggedly. Once you’ve read a given work or oeuvre twenty times successively, you’ll start really learning something.
Soon you will be traveling light and taking a huge leap of faith to tour the country to promote your book. What do you hope to share with the world?
Obviously, I’d like to share my book with the world. But perhaps more importantly – and less selfishly – I want to share with writers what it takes these days to make a debut book something of a success. If you’ve spent years working on a novel, you ought to consider, at least fleetingly, sacrificing your life for that book. I realize that this doesn’t apply to every writer, but generally speaking, if you won’t put yourself in harm’s way to promote your art, why should anyone take the time to read you?
What’s the best thing you’ve discovered about yourself while creating We’re Getting On?
I discovered that I’m too ambitious for my own good. I also discovered that I’m never satisfied. That’s not necessarily a good realization, but I feel I know myself better, now. Success, or at least the ambition to be successful, is tied closely, if not to madness itself, then dissatisfaction. Your 40s, 50s, 60s, etc. are for resting on your laurels. Your 20s and 30s, even though you should enjoy them, should be a sort of artistic purgatory.
What do you love most about life? And what do you hope you’ll find on this encouraging journey?
I love sitting around in the presence of interesting people discussing interesting things. Interesting things can be books. But interesting things can also be the time you visited a whorehouse in Mexico, or ate dinner on the first day of Ramadan in a village in Jordan. I expect that the people I meet on this journey will be astounding. I expect to make a lot of lifelong friends.
If you could go back in time, what piece of knowledge would you take back with you into the future?
That when you lose someone you love, though the feeling never dissipates, life, eventually, becomes bearable. Later it even becomes pleasurable.
Can you offer some advice for writers trying to follow in your footsteps?
It is important to think that you are writing a very important book. Even if it isn’t the most important book of the year, or for that matter the month, you must believe it’s the most important one of the century.
If you could pick one word to describe yourself, what would it be?
As I said earlier, dissatisfied. Also, paradoxically, content.
Thank you James. We’re Getting On sounds like a phenomenal book and it was such a pleasure interviewing you. You have truly gone above and beyond to reach your dreams, WOW!!
If you’d like to find out more about James Kaelan you can visit his site here. Also, he has a great video about his tour here that you will want to watch again and again.