Smoking With Jesse Eagle

by Amber Sparks Read the Story March 26, 2012

I chose your piece for many reasons, but most of all because your story felt so close, so claustrophobic, so immediate. It was the breath of a nightmare on my face, in the best of ways. What inspired this story? Why did you choose to write it the way that you did, and from such a close third person perspective? Where does this urgency come from?

This story was inspired by a dream someone was kind enough to tell me. I wanted to put a child and a mother in a room as the walls burned and see if the mother would protect the child or protect the house. I think the close third person perspective was more a byproduct of my curiosity for the mother rather than any conscious choice, and as the piece progressed I noticed the mother slipped closer and closer. I’m not exactly sure where the urgency came from. Perhaps the flames. Perhaps the crumbling.

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I love language above all else, and your story was full of luscious, brilliant language. You can write a sentence like what for. Is this typical of your writing? Do you typically write in this lush, layered way? Everything in the piece is a tight brick—it all comes crowding together, words over words under words, in a big whoosh. Is this a signature writing style for you, or did it happen because this particular piece demanded it?

Language is typically my foundation. Words and word choice are usually the crux. Sentence construction is also a major focus, as is rhythm. And this piece is fairly representative of my style.

What do you like about writing flash fiction? Is it your preferred story length? What are the challenges you face with writing something shorter?

I like that flash fiction allows me to work on the craft of storytelling in a more focused way. The beginning, the end, the body all in the matter of a page or two. As of right now it’s my preferred story length, and personally a great challenge of its form is eliciting an emotional response in a reader in a small amount of space.

You need/want to write a story. How does the process work for you? Do you have a place, a time, or a method, or does a story need to find its way into your head first before you put pen to paper? How often do you write? Do you ever use prompts? Or is it different for you all the time?

My writing process varies daily. I don’t write in a particular place, for a particular amount of time, or at a particular time of day. I suppose my only methodologies are I write everything longhand first and roughly 1500 words per day.

Who are your influences when you write? Writers, musicians, painters, poets, doctors, teachers, athletes, family, friends—who, living or dead, imaginary or real, has shaped your work in a big way?

I am always searching for anything that may influence my writing on a word level, a sentence level, a rhythmic level, an episodic level, or a visual level. Some influences right now are: James Agee, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Bob Dylan, Native American myth and folklore.

If you were allowed to bring three books onto the proverbial desert island, what books would you bring?

Dante’s The Inferno, The Warren Commission Report, and The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola.

What contemporary writers/upcoming books are you most excited about, and why?

I’m really excited to read The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus because of the way he maneuvers language.

How you would spend a perfect Sunday in January?

Putting together a puzzle and eating key lime pie.

About the Author:

Jesse Eagle lives in Chicago, and attends Northwestern University.