SOME THINGS THAT MATTER TO AUTHOR Jesse S. Hanson
When I read a book, or when I’m thinking of reading a book, I find that I would love to know more about the author. What do they think about? Why should I care about what they have written? What insights can they give me about their process, characters, and reasons for even putting their words on paper and sharing with others? Here are some questions I have asked some of my favorite authors. I hope you enjoy their responses as much as I have.
Why should I read your book?
I hope people will see it as a bona-fide alternative example of spiritual fiction about the human condition and our relationship with our Creator. It’s not just another sensationalistic story about some crazy people and some guy from outer space or something who thinks he’s God.
Do you listen to music while you write, or do you require total and utter silence?
Not total and utter. Some sounds of nature, birds, the wind, rain, things like that are nice. Or even the normal sounds of people going about their business—not everybody’s lawnmower at once, not the sound of them drilling for gas in my back yard. I never listen to music when I write.
How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book?
It came to me as I was finishing another novel, one that is, as yet, unpublished. It is a fairly common notion that the material world, the cycle of birth and death in the world, is a prison in many ways—that spirituality, not just any kind of spirituality, mind you, but that the success of spirituality is freedom from this prison. This crazy prison.
Not entirely sure why my allegorical prison became a skyscraper. But it seemed to fit nicely with the different planes of existence that are manifest in creation, the different levels of existence.
Of course, as I explain in the author’s note at the beginning of the book, George, the character, George, has to dwell in the same conditions, have the same problems as the other prisoners or patients, just as did Lord Jesus, Lord Buddha, Kabir, and so many other Holy Men throughout history.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I don’t feel at home in this world. So I’m seeking a better one. I’ve been convinced that this is not our real home. It’s the only subject I’m interested in, although genre can change. Genre is just backdrop.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing all my life. Mostly songs. I’ve written a whole lot of songs. Want to make a book of them also. For the last five years or so, I began to focus on prose, to the frustration of my musician companions to some degree.
What cultural value do you see in writing/reading/storytelling/etc.?
I like this question. I’m going to sound like a snob here, though it isn’t my intention. I feel that writing, art, music, all the arts, that their main purpose should be to elevate the human spirit in some way. Not just entertainment. I can feel the pies, the rotten vegetables, hitting me in the face as I say it. Boos and catcalls too.
How does your book relate to your spiritual practice or other life path?
Only in the sense that, just like the poor folks in my book are spiritually rescued by George (I’m not giving anything away here, that information is right up front in my story) I was and am spiritually rescued by my spiritual Master, Ajaib Singh Ji, who has, to my deep despair, left the world physically.
What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
The questions keep getting better here.
I feel I have achieved them personally, but that is so subjective. I know some people have gotten a lot from the story, but it’s just been published. I guess that if anyone at all gets any hope or inspiration from it then my intentions are achieved. Numbers aren’t important in that regard, but of course they come in handy in terms of getting paid for my work and being able to do more work. And to get published again, perhaps.
What are some of the references that you used while researching this book?
Sol Wachtler’s book, After the Madness: A Judge’s Own Prison Memoir, was a kind of catalyst. Otherwise, I did mostly internet research—there’s a whole lot of material on the prison/mental facility phenomenon.
But I did do a nine week stint in a state hospital “drug ward” myself as a very young man. After the first couple of weeks of virtual imprisonment, we got to wander all around, visit the crazies, act ridiculous. We were just confused teenagers, you know.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Dealing with the idea that I didn’t know if my own spiritual Master would approve of it.
What inspires you?
What are some day jobs that you have held? If any of them impacted your writing, share an example.
I always used to say I was an artist trapped in a blue collar body. I’ve worked in welding, shipbuilding, mechanical maintenance, farming, construction. As of this writing, I work in a retail furniture store. Had to get out of industry for my health.
For those interested in exploring the subject or theme of your book, where should they start?
Well there’s three subjects really. There’s prison, your can explore that quite easily by becoming a criminal. There’s mental illness, you don’t want to go there. And there’s spirituality, that takes sincerity, just like I wasn’t being in the three sentences before this one. Spirituality is not for the faint of heart. I’m being sincere now.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
In terms of books dealing with spirituality, it’s old fashioned, as opposed to new age. There’s a lot of fluff out there, from self-made spiritual guides, etc. My book shows spirituality as a gift from God. Duck, here come the rotten vegetables again.
What are some ways in which you promote your work? Do you find that these add to or detract from your writing time?
There’s no question but what promotion seriously cuts into writing time. I’m not sure what to do about that. Anyone want to do my promotion for me?
What projects are you working on at the present?
I’m working on an earlier novel re-work, re-polish, about a multi-faith spiritual community, and I’m working on a new novel which I do not care to disclose much about yet. I will say that both of them are primarily rural settings. I can only stay in the city for so long.
What did your character do that totally shocked and surprised you and caused you to revisit your book?
The hardest thing for me was to portray George as a fully enlightened God Man and at the same time as a destitute with a severe mental illness. The whole concept of a man who is also God or conversely, God becoming a man is a miraculous thing quite beyond intellectual understanding. So when George would do something very human-like, it would kind of freak me out.