interview via email by Mai Nguyen Do
James Wade lives in Austin, Texas, where he writes fiction for his wife and two dogs. His wife is encouraging, but the dogs remain unimpressed. His work is featured or forthcoming in The Bitter Oleander, Jersey Devil Press, Bartleby Snopes, and many other publications. Visit him at JamesWadeWriter.com
Crab Fat: What is the motivation behind your work? What or who has influenced your style?
James Wade: There are dozens of micro-motivations, but the dominant force behind my work is a love for stories. Songs, poems, books, it’s all storytelling. At the end of the day, that’s all I’m trying to do–write something worthy of a campfire. My style was shaped by great Southern voices like Mark Twain, Harper Lee, Flannery O’Connor, and Cormac McCarthy. Joe Lansdale is another writer who continues to have a huge influence on my work. Being from the South, I gravitate toward these storytellers because their characters and their themes reflect the hardships brought on by poverty, racism, and clashes of culture. You can feel them getting down in the dirt with their characters. That’s where the good stuff is, in the grime.
CF: What is your writing process?
JW: Ass-in-chair. That’s the process, the motto, the beginning, and the end. I know there are writers and artists who can sit on a mountainside, see a bird fly overhead, and be filled with inspiration or touched by the great muse. I’m not one them. Octavia Butler said “habit is more dependable than inspiration,” and I’d have to agree. For me, the writing process is a strict discipline. I read as much as I can. I research. Then I force myself into the chair each morning and shoot for 2,000 good words, editing as I go. I’ve tried coffee shops, parks, etc. but that usually just distracts me. I’m realizing now, I may have the most boring process in the history of writing. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get good and drunk then try to churn out a few pages alongside a babbling brook.
CF: Are there any projects or pieces you’re currently working on? If so, could you tell us about your works in progress?
JW: My novel, The Last Nothin’ Ball, was recently selected as the winner of the 2016 Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest. Despite that success, I’m still not completely satisfied with the work (does any writer ever actually like what they’ve written?). My goal is to have a bow tied around the finished product by summer’s end. The story follows Ruby, an elderly black woman, as she escapes from her nursing home in Georgia, steals an obnoxiously big truck, and embarks on a baseball-fueled road trip to her hometown in East Texas. At each stop, she shares more about her past, and each memory reveals an important moment from her life dealing with race, gender equality, love and, most notably, loss. The heavy subject matter is presented in an approachable manner by Ruby, who uses humor, humility, and plenty of baseball references to pave the way. It’s her heart that drives the story. I’m also working on a collection of shorts called Pine Needles which includes “My Daughter with Blonde Hair,” a finalist in the 2016 Tethered by Letters Short Story Contest.
CF: And finally, what is your workspace like? Is there anything you absolutely have to have (or definitely can’t stand to have) when writing?
JW: I try to save sentimentality for my characters, but my writing desk does tug at my heart-strings each morning. I built it primarily from reclaimed cedar planks, then “decorated” it with a small, $10 table lamp from Target. It sits, facing the window, in the home office I share with my wife. It is basically the only workspace I’ve known as a writer. There’s nothing I have to have while I write, other than quiet. Sometimes I’ll play classical music, but for the most part, the voices in my head don’t like any competition.