Welcome my special guest, Jesse Giles Christiansen, author of compelling literary fiction that weaves the real with the surreal. His newest novel, Pelican Bay, has just been released by Imajin Books. The story focuses on a very old fisherman, Captain Shelby, and the mysterious happenings linked to him surrounding a nosy, sea-battered beach town.
Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Pelican Bay. When did you start writing and what got you into mystery suspense?
Great question. I wrote short stories in college as an English Major, but wrote my first novel-novel when I was 26 years old. I can still remember sitting in this old cheap apartment room, a view of a tattered stairway, my fingers pecking on an actual typewriter. That novel was unfortunately destroyed and has since been re-written. It’s about a summer I spent in Alaska working on fishing boats. I don’t think an author “plans” to write in a particular genre, not if he wants to excel, that is. I believe a genre has to call an author. I just write and my publisher calls it mystery suspense.
Did you have a mentor who encouraged you?
My mother published articles under a pen name, and sort of like King’s mother, would read anything and everything I wrote and she thought it was genius. Cheryl Kaye Tardif, owner of Imajin Books, my publisher, has been a mentor of late. She’s this hybrid talent of writing and marketeering. She’s a fabulous entity of the 21st century.
Did you have any struggles or difficulties when you started writing?
Well, I’ve always been immune to writer’s block. Fortunately, I have a colossal imagination. As a child, I could play with a soap bar for hours, imagining it was a little car or a boat adrift a carpet sea. My greatest struggle early on was the persistent, naive misconstruction that great work sells itself. Ha! There’s a good one! Maybe last century that was true.
What was your inspiration for Pelican Bay?
The novel came from a strange dream. I was standing on a Carolina beach, noticing dark, ominous rocks littering the ocean floor just beyond the shelf. I woke up haunted, and later that day my fingers went to work. Ironically, Captain Shelby, the main character, my favorite character that I’ve created so far, seemed to birth himself by his own will right from the pages; he was not planned at all. He roared for room to grow, and, like a good author should, I gave it to him.
Do you have any plotting secrets? Do you use index cards or special software?
The book is the boss. The book is the boss.
What do you tell your muse when she refuses to collaborate?
I like that. Clever. I don’t believe The Muse refuses to cooperate. I believe that we drown her out. Curing writer’s block is simply a matter of reducing distractions so that one can hear her again, much like a workaholic husband rediscovering his beautiful wife.
Many writers experience a vague anxiety before they sit down to right. Can you relate to this?
Yes. Perhaps that’s normal, though I’ve always found it strange. To write greatly, one must dive greatly deep. It’s only natural to feel some apprehension when you’re lowering yourself as if into a beautifully dark and mysterious bottomless pit. But that is the creative process. It’s scary and wonderful and thrilling and better than even that drug from the movie, Limitless.
Do you have a writing schedule? Do you set yourself weekly goals for your writing?
It’s funny, I used to believe in a daily writing schedule. Until I became traditionally published. I guess I still believe that such a mythical creature as a writing schedule exists, but it is too transcendental a creature to comprehend linearly.
How do you celebrate the completion of a novel?
I like to go somewhere amazing, but somewhere I’ve been before. It’s all about backing up and seeing the forest for me, not just celebrating an achievement. It’s about benchmarks. I like to go to the Tybee Island Pier in Georgia. I stand on the pier or on the beach and look around. Before long I’m like a seagull hovering above everything, everyone. I look down at what I’ve achieved—what I’ve become. Then, before I leave, I think about what I want to achieve before I come back again. The last time I left it was to get published. This time the goal will be greater, to come back to Tybee Island with a New York literary agent and a gargantuan publishing deal. Let’s see what happens!
What do you love most about the writer’s life?
There is not a day that passes that I don’t wake and feel truly blessed. I live a dream as my career. Damn it, I get to be an artist for a living! The excitement of that will never grow old. Some days, like now, I’m flooded with this tingling fear that it’s not all real—that I’m going to wake up in a corporate tie.
Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?
Open your minds and hearts and Pelican Bay will transport you. Oh yeah, and get to know Captain Shelby really well before you judge him. Not a bad philosophy of life to use with everyone, eh?