I was introduced to Drew Jackson's fiction when I read his hilarious/brilliant story "The Widow Teasdale and the Ineffable Warmth of Personal Servies." It is an amazing story on so many levels, published by Monkeybicycle. Drew's writing is very funny, sometimes sad, and resonates long after you've read his work.
After reading Drew Jackson for the first time I wanted to read more of his work and I also wanted to know more about the author. So I sent him an interview request, and he was totally up for it. First read "The Widow Teasdale and the Ineffable Warmth of Personal Servies" and then check out our interview below:
Blake Kimzey: Where did “The Widow Teasdale and the Ineffable Warmth of Personal Services” come from? It is such a funny story. Sad, too. I'm wondering what the seed for this story was, what got you to the keyboard to write this particular story.
Drew Jackson: The story came from a weird place as I'm sure you can imagine. I get these inexplicable pangs of nostalgia for the down-and-out days I spent in Phoenix, a city that introduced me to a host of people living isolated, largely sad lives on the margins. In Phoenix, I got to know a lot of harmless, good natured, total fuck-ups (which, by the way is a pretty fair description of me in the late eighties and early nineties, and, quite possibly, today). So the story represents an attempt to sketch a portrait of intimacy that could only happen in the Phoenix that I knew more than 15 years ago.
BK: As a character, is the widow Teasdale pure imagination or a sketch of someone you might have known? What about our freelancing male dancer?
DJ: Both characters are the product of a bizarre imagination fused with elements of people that I've known. I was once approached by a soft-spoken septuagenarian in a bright yellow sun dress, dark glasses, and a big floppy hat who wanted me to find her a male escort. She may have been the loneliest person I've ever met. I had her in my mind's eye while I was sketching the widow.
The protagonist formerly known as Sugar Pants was inspired by a cab driver who tried to convince me that all the real money to be had was in the gigolo trade, although he had turned in his sex worker's card before he leased his cab. The inverted nipple was my invention – pure art. I doubt the cabbie had an inverted nipple.
BK: Were you listening to a soundtrack (maybe Rob Base or DJ E-Z Rock) when you wrote this story? Do you typically listen to music when you write?
DJ: I wasn't listening to music when I wrote the story, although I sometimes listen to music while I write. The Rob Base reference is another nod to my time in Phoenix. When I first moved out there that song was inescapable. The thought of an outcall lap dancer playing it on his boom box amuses the snot out of me.
BK: There is a lot of descriptive specificity in your writing (“The unmistakable Bronx in her voice is darkened by the smoke of ten thousand Pall Malls,” etc.). Does this come out organically in the first draft or do you add most of this texture when you are re-writing? Your wording blows me away, the pace and unforced humor rolled into the details.
DJ: Thanks. I'm drawn to vivid prose that enhances the narrative, and that's what I shoot for. Most of the detail comes out in the first draft, probably because I'm trying to illustrate the story as I see it in my skull. During revision, I focus more on compression and the rhythm of the narrative.
BK: Your stories are so funny (“I swallow a couple Klonopin to get my moneymaker good and loose, and lash on the ass-less chaps that are the cornerstone of my raunchy cowpoke rig.”). Are you going for comedy when you start a story? I'm wondering if you set out to write something sad with “The Widow Teasdale and the Ineffable Warmth of Personal Services” and ended up with a hybrid, a story that is laugh-out loud funny in most every section.
DJ: The idea of a middle-aged man earning his living as a lap dancer for shut-ins is darkly funny to me. I was definitely trying to make myself laugh when I wrote the story. I don't see myself as a comedic writer but humor is hugely important to me and I doubt I could keep it out of my work. At the same time, though, I have a heart full of love for both characters, and I wanted the piece to say something more than, “Hey, look at these two losers.” Both the widow and her hired companion have suffered losses and are looking for some kind of real connection with another person. I suppose that is why the story is sad as well as funny.
BK: What are you working on at the moment? Your Monkeybicycle bio just tells us you live and write in D.C. Are you working on more short stories or is a novella/novel on the horizon? Where can people go to find more of your work?
DJ: Right now, I'm working on a couple of pieces. I recently started a sort of Orwellian dystopian short story set in the wake of a hipster revolt. Imagine, if you will, a society governed by skinny pants wearing revolutionaries. I've also tapped a few of my funniest friends to collaborate on “Sponge Bath in Valhalla,” a rock opera in progress. If it comes together, it will feature a guitar battle between the hero and an evil anthropomorphic squid who wails on a quint-a-necker guitar. My best guess is that it won't come together, but it's been fun so far. My stories can be found online at Word Riot, Thieves Jargon, The New Yinzer, Metazen, and Wrong Tree Review. One may use The Google, if one is so inclined