Author of the Week: Jedidiah Ayres
Jedidiah Ayres gets a lot of inspiration not only from every day, seemingly mundane life in the Midwest.
Some people seem like born writers not simply because of their special way with words and narrative composition, but because they just look and sound like a “writer.” That includes their name. I’m not sure if Jedidiah Ayres is a nom de plume, but I kinda doubt it. He looks just like a Jedidiah Ayres, even if he thinks he looks like Warren Oates. And Jedidiah Ayres is a naturally authorial name, just like Warren Oates is a naturally actorly name.
Both live up to their names in their respective fields, brilliantly so. And fortunately for us, unlike the man who brought you Alfredo Garcia’s head, Jedidiah is still very much with us, writing stories and novels (like his popular full length debut Peckerwood) set in his stomping ground of Missouri, which can sound a lot like "misery" if you're drunk and slurring your words, like one of his characters.
Like me, Jedidiah gets a lot of inspiration not only from every day, seemingly mundane life in the Midwest, but from watching movies, mostly in the crime genre. Perhaps this is one reason he's been referred to as a "hillbilly Tarantino." I'm not sure he takes that as a compliment, but it's pretty apt, though he hasn't tried to kill Uma Thurman, as far as I know.
Your fascination with criminal culture extends to cinema, along with your own fiction. Do you feel the public’s inherent human appetite for violence is sated or sublimated via art?
I don't think anything that inspires art is also satisfied by it, but sublimation? Yeah, I think art is where we explore what fascinates and exhilarates or confounds and terrifies us. I think it's inherently healthy and human to make art about all manner of terrible (and wonderful) subjects and that people of all skill levels should be making their crappy art. The harder choices needing to be made are about what art gets shared with a potential audience. Let me be the first to encourage you to make it and the first to caution you about sharing it.
How is “noir,” a term first coined by French film critics to designate a trend in postwar American cinema, relevant to contemporary literary audiences?
Film noir is what people first think of and all the great surface style many of those movies had, but the French also had the Black Novel from about the same time - I believe Gallimard's Série noire goes back to the forties. I think the term coined nicely at a time and place, but it's a universal and timeless essence that resonates especially in dark societal chapters - particularly when a perceived underclass is cast in such stark relief to a vibrant or prosperous 'norm'. Whatever transgression is central to the noir story, it's usually inspired by some kind of class envy - whether of the classic economic variety or perhaps of a more privately perceived mental or spiritual or sexual division - somebody who considers his/herself on the wrong side of a divide and acts in resentment or desperation to change that status. There are of course heroic stories about the same kinds of struggles, but the noir - regardless the action taken - has its roots in toxic soil.
Do you feel the boundaries between “literary” and genre fiction are blurring as hybrid fiction becomes more popular and modern authors broaden their own creative horizons?
I have no idea.
What's fun about creating genres is readers looking for similarities in theme, setting, plot mechanics and finding ways of bringing into relationship otherwise disparate works - highlighting similarities - or conversely - winnowing down criteria to a fine point in a purity exercise. It can be illuminating and amusing, but once a value is placed on genres in relation to each other it's become a tool of oppression and artists are going to strive to subvert those values.
What are your influences, literary or otherwise?
Too numerous to name. Foremost is probably The Bible - those stories just ground into me at an early age - it's impossible to separate my ideas about narrative and my worldview from their biblical roots. Regardless of where my views and ideas end up - they started out in that place. Between Moses and the scribes of cheap straight to video movies of the nineties probably covers sixty percent of my direct influences.
What’s next for you?
Limbering up to jump the shark.
As Fonzie would day, stay cool. And dry.
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New Orleans, LA