Justin Tadlock On Writing

This is a little something I wrote to help me out with a presentation in Fiction Writing I. I gave each student in the class a copy of this and a copy of “Claws.” My teacher actually asked me if she could use this to show other classes.

Interview With Aspiring Author
Justin Tadlock On Writing

Why do you like to write?
I guess I have to go way back to fully understand this. When I was growing up, my dad wrote songs and still does. I have a very musical family that goes back for generations. I remember writing tons of songs when I was younger and continuing do so throughout high school for fun. My dad is still looking to sell his first song (he writes country music). But, he may never sell a song, but he does it anyway. Probably because he must do it in order to understand life.

One of the people that I think probably influenced me, and some of the things that I write about a lot, is my grandfather, my dad’s dad. He and my grandmother used to baby-sit me and my sister in the summer. And paw-paw used to tell me all kinds of stories about growing up. He never had a lot, he was poor, but I think he represents to me what growing up in the rural South feels like. You don’t get a lot of opportunities, or you don’t think about them. Because people don’t expect much from you. They expect you to keep being poor. They expect you to work down at the sawmill until you’re too old to do it anymore.

I don’t exactly know when I wrote my first story, but I do have a story called “Claws” that I always call my first story. It’s at least the oldest thing I still have. It’s one big, long paragraph, and it lacks mostly periods, commas, and any kind of logic or structure.

So, why do you write?
I don’t really know for sure. I like to, I guess. It’s a challenge. I could’ve stuck out Software Engineering, Hotel and Restaurant Management, or done many other things, but I probably wouldn’t be challenged in the way that writing challenges me. It challenges me to look inside of myself for answers. It challenges me to look at the world for answers.

It’s just something I’ve always done. And I couldn’t imagine life without writing. I’ve always said that I would write a novel one day, even when I didn’t think I’d be an English major. It’s part of who I am, and who I’ve always been.

So, why do you really write, Justin?
Probably because I have to. There’s no other choice for me. Writers, such as myself, must write or we might go crazy or something. It’s a sort of release. Like going to the bathroom or something. We have to do it because we don’t need all that stuff building up inside of us. It will eventually come out on its own, and that will be a huge mess. Okay, probably not the best analogy that I could come up with, but I was thinking that it was a little funny and maybe a little gross.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
First, writing is dang hard. I mean, sometimes I wonder why I torture myself in this way. But, sometimes, just sometimes, I come to this spot (I guess you can call it a click or a light going off somewhere in my head), and when I get to this spot I feel relieved. It’s the moment when I realize where I want to go with a story, how something is going to unfold, and that is a (for lack of a better word or phrase, come on Justin you’re a writer!) magical.

I don’t know how to describe this feeling any better. I just feel that the story I’m working on is somehow complete because I figured out what to do. Then, I can truly enjoy the writing process even more because I do know what I want to do.

What is your writing process like?
I used to think that paper and pen was the best way to go for me. Stick me in a room with four walls, a roof, and nothing but those four walls and roof besides my paper and pen, and I could create whatever world I wanted to. No limits.

Now, I’ve been slowly moving over to the computer over the last year or so. But, the transition didn’t go all that smoothly. I get too distracted with other things, like that Internet Explorer icon. I think it’s evil, asking me to forget about the writing process and explore the online world.

I have done something to counteract that though. Music. I found out that if I play music, I can ignore everything else. So, I pop in, usually, that Alanis Morissette CD, “Jagged Little Pill,” from like the mid-90s and start writing. (If being pissed off at the world starts popping up in my writing soon, I may have to switch CDs.) But, I don’t really listen to the music. It helps me block out the world. I can’t hear the cats meowing. I can’t hear other people if they’re in the house (although I now live alone, and this isn’t as big a problem). And I don’t think about the evil Internet Explorer icon. I’m simply engaged in my story, and that’s where I want to be.

I don’t know if I’ll continue to use this technique for writing, but it seems to work when I use it.

I do often try out different techniques. I might write laying on the bed, sitting on the couch, going back to the four wall one roof technique, sprawled out across the floor. I might try writing in the afternoon, at night, or in the mornings. I have found that in the mornings is a great time for me to write. My mind is fresh from getting some sleep, and I there are less outside distractions. There’s this calmness that’s in the mornings. However, I don’t have as much time to write in the mornings, and my time blocks are shortened considerably compared to writing at night.

Any influential authors?
I read a lot of different stuff. I like to have a variety, so that I can know what kind of writing interests me more. Currently, one of my favorite authors is Joss Whedon. He’s the guy that did the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly. He wrote the screenplay for Toy Story. He wrote comics in the Astonishing X-Men series. Plus, he’s got some other work under his belt.

I like that he really focuses on creating characters. Even in his unbelievable worlds, his characters are still believably human. They mess up. They laugh. They cry. And people our age can really relate to the things in these characters’ lives. Even with the world in peril constantly, they still have to go through the things that we have to go through. Like love (obviously the most important thing), growing up, the horrors of high school, the horrors of college, finding out what you really want out of life.

I always say, “If you haven’t experienced Joss, you haven’t lived.”

Tell me more Justin.
Well, I can’t think of more right now. I’m sure there are other things that I could talk about, but I’m running out of time.