A Conversation With Literary Author Jay Lemming

by | Jul 25, 2016 | Articles | 0 comments

Today’s blog post is a little different – an interview with fellow literary novelist Jay Lemming, author of Billy Maddox Takes His Shot. I’ll let the interview speak for itself, but for more on Jay, visit his website at https://jaylemming-author.com.

Thanks for joining us, Jay. Can you tell us more about your experience as an independent author of literary fiction?

First of all, thanks for the interview opportunity, Mike. I’m relatively new to the indie world, truth be told, but the existence of so many talented writers is an inspiration. Social media is a great way to connect with other writers.

My experience as an indie author began around mid-2014. I had just gone through a separation from my wife and was in pretty low spirits. I knew I had to return to doing something that I loved, something for me and not anyone else. I had a mostly completed literary novel, Billy Maddox Takes His Shot. The struggles in my marriage made it difficult to write so now, freed emotionally from the relationship troubles, I was able to find my focus again and finish the book.

As I began to look at the publishing landscape, I realized it had been turned upside down by the rise of indie authors and the service providers who support them–editors, distributors, book cover designers, etc. I had a history of primarily poor experiences with literary agents (rejection, in other words) so I liked the idea of moving beyond the traditional publishing model and controlling my own path to publication.

So I did. Earlier this year, I finally published Billy Maddox Takes His Shot.

You describe Billy Maddox as a literary novel. Is that important to you?

Yes, it is but it has more to do with personal history than because I’m wedded to the idea that a book should belong to one genre or another.

In the late 1990s, I was studying modernist literature at Fordham University. I love the expatriates of the early 20th century–Joyce, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein and the VERY underappreciated John Dos Passos. To this day, the USA Trilogy remains one of my favorite reads of all time.

So I earned my Master’s degree in English and did well in my comprehensive exams by basically writing about “broken” or unattainable symbols in early 20th century literature, such as Woolf’s lighthouse and the clock in the Compson household that never tells the right time (Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury).

My professors wanted me to pursue my PhD but, quite frankly, I didn’t want to live a life of poverty that might have become my life as an English professor. I joined the Peace Corps and went to Sri Lanka to teach English. I always figured I would come back to the States and become a teacher. But life threw me a curve ball. When I got home to New York, the Peace Corps hired me to do contract marketing and promotional work. That led to another contract in the Washington, DC metropolitan region (where I live now), and the next thing you know, I’m entering the professional world as a marketer. Who knew?

But entering the business world also meant a radical separation from the world of literature and of the critical analysis of human experience that had informed my thinking until then. The people who loved the same thing I did weren’t around me anymore, and it was a jarring and isolating experience.

Writing what I call a LITERARY novel such as Billy Maddox Takes His Shot is my way of staying connected to that passion and that world. Even though I left university for economic reasons, that doesn’t mean my love of reading, analyzing and thinking about literature and human experience died. It simply inspired me to start writing literary fiction, which is about as close as you can come to classic literature.

And yes, I know a lot of what we call classic literature would have been considered genre literature back in the day. I AM generalizing.

Tell us how your interest in literary fiction led to this survey you’re conducting with other authors of literary fiction.

Last year, I signed up for an online course with successful indie author Nick Stephenson. He shared strategies with his clients for how to market your books, and one of his suggestions is to find similar authors online and build partnerships with them to share promotional opportunities. The only problem is, if you go into the Kindle store, for example, most of what falls under the category of literary fiction is traditionally published. So I was like, where the hell are the indie authors of literary fiction?

I couldn’t believe I was the only one. When I looked at blogs and Twitter profiles, I saw them. Meaning, I saw writers who considered themselves writers of literary fiction. But there was no central community, per se, unless I missed something. People like Jane Friedman and David Gaughran were putting out things here and there and I wanted to build on that foundation. It seemed like a fragmented group. So I launched this survey where I basically ask indie authors who write literary fiction about their books and what they think of the genre. Some don’t even consider literary fiction a genre. In any case, I wanted to create a meeting point for such writers no matter what they think literary fiction is or isn’t.

What about the author interviews you have been conducting over the past few months?

So my outrageous goal for this literary fiction survey is to get 75 respondents and publish the results in one epic roundup post. But I can’t just collect surveys from 75 writers without continuing to remind participants it is there and challenge them to think about the survey and what literary fiction represents. Otherwise, this survey will just turn into the perpetual sound of crickets.

So I also asked the authors who participated in the survey if they wanted to be interviewed more in-depth about their ideas about literary fiction, and then I would publish the interviews on my blog on an ongoing basis. Indie author Rohan Quine encouraged me to stick with it, so I did. This was intended to keep the “presence” of the survey alive and well as I sought my 75 respondents.

So far, so good. More than 20 people have taken the survey and I have six published interviews with about five or six more in the queue. I have to say, there has been one group that has been amazingly supportive, and that is the Alliance of Independent Authors. Dan Holloway, who has a lot of respect within this community and is intelligent to the nth degree, came out as an early advocate. He was also the very first indie author I interviewed. For that support, I will always be grateful.

There are indie authors all across the world but I have to say, my experience is that the Brits have their shit together a lot better than indie authors in other countries. I mean, why NOT create an Alliance of Independent Authors? Orna Ross and her group have been amazing bringing this thing to life.

How are you going to get from 20 to 75 respondents?

More promotion to different communities within the indie author space; I’m starting to interview more Americans, such as yourself. I published an interview with Steve Bargdill a few weeks ago–another Yank. I also want to explore perspectives on literary fiction tied to authors who write about race, ethnicity, nationality and sexuality. So I have a lot of research to do to find those communities and then pitch the survey and questionnaire so that authors there will want to participate. I’m hopeful that, since I have benefited from participation already, this project will carry some credibility.

What about your own writing? Now that Billy Maddox Takes His Shot is done, is your writing done too?

Good God, no. I have also published a dark dystopian novella called The Curse of Jaxx, based on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. I’m very much a fan of dark fiction and horror films that scare the crap out of me. I’m wrapping up some short stories related to Billy Maddox and then I have a collection of coming-of-age short stories called Death to the Children and Other Stories, and another novel called Wichita Snake in the works.

I really do have to get organized or I’m going to find myself surrounded by tons of half-finished manuscripts but nothing to show for it.

Jay, thanks so much for your time.

Thanks again for having me, Mike.

Writing Based on Experience

Recently, I’ve been writing more about writing, giving some explanations about why I write what I write…or, in the case of the three novels I’m currently promoting, why I wrote what I wrote. Brothers’ Hand, which takes place in the fictional town of Carverville, NY,...
endemic

From Pandemic to Endemic to…?

It’s funny how a blog like this can serve as sort of a substitute for a journal. Not “ha ha” funny, mind you. But “strange” funny for sure. All the way back in December 2021, I wrote a post called The Scary Weekend I Thought I Had COVID. I’d met up with a friend and...

Coming Soon: Rides From Strangers

I don't typically recommend blatant self-promotion in blog posts, though I do have a post here somewhere entitled Blatant Self-Promotion...ha! This week, however, I'm getting excited about my upcoming release, and decided it's time to talk about it again. I thought...

Talk of der Führer at the Local Library??

This past weekend I had a pretty weird, disturbing experience related to Nazism, which I only documented on my personal Facebook page. In retrospect, it's probably just as good for blog fodder as anything else. I must be a little naive, because somehow I've managed to...
recovery

Recovery 202? Long-Term Sobriety Is Possible

So, the plan for today was to write a post about recovery. Unfortunately, I’m in a different kind of recovery mode today—recovering from a sinus infection. What that means for you, the reader, is I’m going to keep this short. Really short. I took my last drink 30...
racism

Would You Like A Side Order of Misogyny, Prejudice, or Homophobia With That?

I didn’t intentionally set out to write a new novel addressing the rampant intolerance, Islamophobia, and racism in America today. I really didn’t. My novels always start with a character, or characters. Sometimes their actions get pretty hectic right out of the gate;...
French

Those Tricky French Authors and Their Obsessions

Today’s blog post was originally going to be Write Whatever the @#$% You Want, Pt. III. However, after seeing parts I and II lined up, I decided to call an audible and make it something less repetitive. Somehow the SEO gods have gotten into my head. As I’ve mentioned...
black friday

From Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday: A Reflection

​Not so long ago, it was easy to think of the week of Thanksgiving as “Gratitude Week.” In fact, I actually did that: back in 2016, Facebook reminds me, I posted an entire week’s worth of “Things I’m Grateful For” to my timeline. It was fun, and certainly provided...

More on Literary Fiction

While I'm recovering from some oral surgery I had last Friday, I'm inclined to just rest and update my blog another time. But I'll be on vacation soon, so I'd rather post something than nothing. With that, I recommend blog readers check out my fellow literary author,...

Rolling With The Changes

I’m back on the blog today after a two-week break, which hasn’t really been a break at all. At least, it hasn’t felt like one. But the topic of today’s post is change, and for good reason: I’m dealing with some major changes in my family, as my parents move past the...
self-promotion

What’s The Problem With Shameless Self-Promotion?

While I still find it somewhat hard to believe, I've been on Twitter for almost eight years. I know this not only because Twitter shows Joined March 2015 on my profile but also because, even if they eliminate that feature, I use a tracker called Who Unfollowed Me? If...
MLK

MLK Day 2023

Here’s wishing everyone a safe, sane Martin Luther King Jr. Day. For many of us, today is always something of a day of mourning: not only mourning the loss of a great civil rights leader, but also mourning the turn our great nation seemed to take in recent years....

Twitter Tips for Authors in 2023

If you follow my blog, you probably connected with me via Twitter, whether you’re a fellow author or not. In 2020, I wrote a post about Twitter for fellow writers that got a good response. Three years later, the landscape has changed, but some Twitter best practices...
rails

Going Off The Rails (But Not On A Crazy Train)

Last April, I wrote a blog post called Back on Track With a Work-In-Progress. Part of that post was to talk about the difference between a “plotter” and a “pantser” (and to describe myself as a hybrid of the two, a “plantser”). Another, less obvious motive, was to...
French

Those Tricky French Authors and Their Obsessions

Today’s blog post was originally going to be Write Whatever the @#$% You Want, Pt. III. However, after seeing parts I and II lined up, I decided to call an audible and make it something less repetitive. Somehow the SEO gods have gotten into my head. As I’ve mentioned...
scared

Write Whatever the @#$% You Want, Pt. II

In last week’s post, I mentioned a pretty well-known author who has publicly reported his publisher “wouldn’t touch” a new release, in part because a character in his novel referred to herself as “fat.” I heard this story on a podcast, and I remember thinking, “Wait...
censorship

Write Whatever the @#$% You Want

I’ve been stewing on this for a while. It’s been brewing for quite a while. I could probably write a song about it (how about a rap?), but I don’t think I will. This is more of a blog post topic, and it might even deserve a series. And that’s the title and topic of...
gratitude

Should Every Month Be Gratitude Month?

When I was a kid, I loved Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz. I read it daily and collected nearly every paperback volume of the cartoon, so I could see what I’d missed since the comic strip’s inception in 1950.  Certain things stuck: quotes like “happiness is a warm puppy”...
robot

More Thoughts On Robot Writers and The Tech Dystopia

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog post here called When Will the Robot Overlords Replace Us? Apparently, I’m fairly obsessed with this stuff, because every time I come here and empty my brain, it seems to come up again. Today is no different. Part of the reason,...