Behind the Words: Matt Jones

Posted by on May 30, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Matt Jones

MSc Whistling - Matt JonesMatt Jones was published in the fourth issue of Spry Literary Journal. Here is his interview with current reader and former contributor, Allie Marini.

Allie Marini: Msc Whistling is a unique, memorable piece that relies heavily on the use of sound, both through vivid sonic descriptions and onomatopoeia, using sound as the primary means of building tension as the piece hurtles towards the end. Tell us about how this piece began–its origin story, if you will.

Matt Jones: I remember stumbling across an article about Silbo Gomero, which is this kind of whistling used by the people of La Gomera in the Canary Islands to communicate across vast distances. I was fascinated by the concept of speech embodied in the medium of whistling, as something with complex and distinct enough tones that could be used to communicate various messages.

In Timequake, Kurt Vonnegut writes: “Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they’re done they’re done.” Would you call yourself a basher or a swooper when you sit down to write?

I think that I’m some sort of combination of swooper and basher now. When I started grad school, I was definitely more of a swooper—I’d write out a draft in one sitting and then come back to it for editing. Now though, I tend to do a lot of planning. It takes me a lot longer to complete projects.

How many times was this piece declined before it found a home with Spry? What was the process of submitting such a unique piece like for you?

I can’t remember exactly, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was rejected ten times before being accepted.

If you could go back and re-edit this piece, would you? (If you answer yes to this, what would you change, and why? — If you answer no, then move on to the next question).

I think I would. I might be interested in further developing some kind of plot, or maybe building up some of the characters. When I wrote it, I was solely invested in the concept of trying to capture whistling as a distinct form of communication on the page. Now, I think I might be interested in trying to build more of a narrative around the whistling.

How has your writing changed since you published this piece? Where can readers find some of your new work?

I wrote this in my first semester of grad school, so at that time, I was really just figuring out what it meant to experiment with things like genre and form. I was also only writing fiction at that time, whereas now, I spend a lot of time writing researched nonfiction. A lot of my new work can be found on my website.

Tri-fold question: Who are your favorite writers to read? Are the writers you like reading the ones you consider most influential on your writing?

This is such a good question. I feel like reading is just as much about figuring out what it is that you want to emulate and what it is that you want to avoid or reject. Maybe emulate is the wrong word, though. Maybe appreciate is better. I’ve gotten really into reading horror books in the last year and a half. If I’m psychoanalyzing myself, then I guess this might have something to do with the state of the world. I’ve also been reading a lot of nonfiction and essay collections. But now that I actually hear myself say these things, I’ve also been reading a lot of novels. A lot of galleys. I’m trying to read as much as possible. Sometimes I think I’m undergoing this kind of detox or unlearning that comes after graduating from an MFA program. A few authors who I consistently enjoy reading are Anne Helen Petersen, Michelle Dean, and Jia Tolentino. Some books that have really stuck with me recently are Carina Chocano’s You Play the Girl, Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater, and Tessa Fontaine’s The Electric Woman. These have all been influential in the sense that they are so intelligent and innovative and honest. I try and carry these qualities into my own nonfiction.

Who is your writing community, and where/how did you find them?

My writing community is mostly composed of my wife. We met during our first semester in graduate school, and I write a lot about how we met. We exchange work and feedback. We collaborate. We submit together. We apply together. So much of writing for me is bound up in her, not in the sense of subject matter, but in the entire process. The way I think. I can pretty much guarantee that she has edited almost anything I have ever submitted. She’s an exquisite editor. Brutal, but kind. She’s a wonderful and thoughtful writer.

Whose voice do you want to lift up right now– who are the writer/s that aren’t household names right now that you think should be?

There are so many! I’m not sure who is or isn’t a household name yet, but here are some authors that I would love for more people to read: Elisa Gabbert, Hanif Abdurraqib, Alice Bolin, Chelsea Summers, Sofia Samatar, Alex Mar, Annie Hartnett, Lauren Michele Jackson, Jess E. Jelsma, Poe Ballantine, Margaret Killjoy, Esmé Weijun Wang, and many, many more. It’s like trying to think of songs that I would recommend– once you get started, the list can go on seemingly forever.

What’s your writer’s fuel (or writer’s vices?)

Coffee is my fuel. My vice is maybe the internet? Twitter? Cute animal compilation videos?

What question do you wish I’d asked, & what’s your answer to it?

This is a very good question. Maybe what I’m working on right now? Which, I think, is a collaborative novel with my wife. It’s about infidelity and the future and radioactive waste. It’s very new, but I’m excited!