Smoking With Jim Tomlinson

Read the Story December 15, 2005

The father’s comment about his son’s talents—”he can imagine anything, make it up from nothing and care like it was real”—hints at not only the power of writer but also the cost of such power. Yes?

Writers live simultaneously in the real world and fictive dreams, and that can have its costs. And for people on the outside, people like the father, the whole business can be quite unnerving.

A truly poignant ending. “Write me alive.” Wow. Is such a thing possible?

Well, there is that yearning. I mean, it’s what we’re always trying to do, isn’t it?

What models did you use for the complex relationships—mother/father, father/son, nurse/son, nurse/father, etc.—that appear in the story? By what means can one successfully translate the world into fiction?

Robert Olen Butler says that yearning is the essential element in the best literary fiction. While the photograph on which ‘Flights’ is based is real, the story surrounding it is entirely invented, as are the characters. The emotions the character represent, though, are absolutely authentic. Hopefully, the story’s emotional truth will resonate with the reader.

Not only did you finish a novella, but it was published. Dang. What did you learn during that process? How does it compare to the process of creating flash fiction?

‘Prologue’ is a novella comprised entirely of letters. Epistolary? Is that what it’s called? It was the natural form for someone used to writing very short. Writing that novella let me know I could sustain a narrative that spanned decades. I’ve since written three novel manuscripts. Right now, my focus is a book of short fiction, fine-tuning it, finding a publisher.

A new year approaches (yikes!). So, what’s the best that 2005 had to offer in literature, web sites, music, movies, television, DVD, and the like? Also, any predictions for 2006? And we’d love to hear your New Year’s resolution.

Not sure I can do ‘bests.’ But I will list what gave me pleasure. Literature: Runaway (Alice Munro). Website: (Laila Lalami). Music: The Hours (score by Phillip Glass) Movie: Capote. Television: Bob Dylan – No Direction Home (Martin Scorsese) DVD: House of Sand and Fog (bonus interview with Andre Dubus III). Online community: Zoetrope Virtual Studio, hands down.

In 2006, the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series. Write it down!

My New Year’s resolutions are many. One is to revive a novel-in-progress, to find its satisfying conclusion.

About the Author:

Jim Tomlinson lives and writes in Berea, Kentucky. His novella, Prologue, is featured in the compilation SEVEN DAYS IN DECEMBER (Imago Press, 2002). Recently his fiction has appeared in Oasis Journal 2005, and Duck and Herring PFG (fall 2005). New fiction is forthcoming next year in River City and in Five Points. Last January he was awarded the Al Smith Fellowship for Fiction by the Kentucky Arts Council.

About the Artist:

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.