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Smoking With Jai Clare

(Read the Story) June 15, 2005

Jai Clare

Art by Marty D. Ison

Where in the world did you get the voice for this story? Wow!

Um I don’t know really! Does anyone know where a voice ‘comes from’? The piece came about unusually for me as a response to a question set up on a workshop scenario run by the writer Diran Adebayo. He said take a word, a dialect—and I remembered the word ‘saft’ and it all came out. To be honest I’ve used a similar voice in a story of mine called “Mad Angels” and I think that’s where it originates.

“Saft buggers.” That’s a fine phrase to be throwing around. Did the idea for this story originate with such a phrase?—or with this character?—or elsewhere?

I rarely ever start with characters. A failing no doubt. I am much more interested in emotions, ideas, structure and language than quirky characters! So as above the idea came from the word saft. Where everything else came from I don’t know but in that 10 minutes I had to write the piece I just saw a man saying saft constantly. I saw the image of someone standing in this man’s ‘territory.’

The word “mad” has great metaphoric power in this piece. Or am I mad to think so? And are you mad for my saying so?

We’re all mad for everything. Don’t you think? Actually I’ve often been told my characters are ‘mad’ or exhibit madness—and I don’t mean that at all! Mad, huh?

You had a story up for the Million Writers Award. Congratulations! Any amazingly good things come out of that?

An honour to be shortlisted. I’ve been invited to contribute to an anthology as were others shortlisted. That’s about it.

I’m doing a British novel stint recently: Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and McEwan’s Saturday. Compare British writing to American writing. I really like British writing but find it difficult to express how it’s different.

Ah. I could be here all day on this! To me the worst British writing is parochial and obsessed with small things and often small trivial silly things epitomized (though a TV show) by Mr. Bean or the Carry on Films. I hate all that. Whereas American writing at its best is sophisticated, and interested in broad things. Epitomized by DeLillo’s White Noise. I love American women writers: Maso, Estep, Melanie Rae Thon, Morrison, Jayne Anne Phillips but you’ll never produce, so it seems, a Winterson or Angela Carter. I could say more but I edited myself! Ha. I love McEwan but lately—he seems to have stopped stretching himself. Prefer his earlier work. And Ishiguro—well I was severely disappointed in When We Were Orphans—his previous book to this that I don’t think I could ever buy one of his ever again! Of course you had Kathy Acker and Lance Olsen who are again very different. American writing seems more rational whereas good British writing that I enjoy seems wilder. I don’t know. It’s a hard thing to distil. But yes there are differences to me. Too much writing on both sides of the Atlantic is too safe, I am sorry to say. More wildness! Everywhere!

About the Author

Jai Clare lives in southwest England and has been published in The London Magazine, Agni, The Barcelona Review, Bonfire, Nemonymous, Pedestal Magazine, and Night Train, amongst others. She’s pursuing a PhD. at The University of Gloucestershire and maintains a website at www.jaiclare.co.uk and a litblog at www.thecuspofsomething.blogspot.com.

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.

This interview appeared in Issue Nine of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Nine

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