Jack Moody | Smorgasbord 2022
Jack Moody is a novelist and short story writer from wherever he happens to be at the time. He is the author of the novel Crooked Smile and the short story collection Dancing to Broken Records. His work has appeared in multiple publications including Expat Press, Misery Tourism, Maudlin House, Horror Sleaze Trash, A Thin Slice of Anxiety, Bear Creek Gazette, and The Saturday Evening Post. He didn't go to college.
LGT: Hi Jack, thanks for agreeing to take part in the Literary Smorgasbord. What were you like at school?
JM: I was a really anxious kid, scared of everything. I’ve always been good with people though, despite how introverted I am, so I was always able to get along with most of my classmates. In grade school I was a good student, always loved learning, especially history and English. Once I got to high school, it was downhill pretty quick. I was never not high and just kind of floated aimlessly through those years until my mental illness really started to shine like the star it is, and I began turning into a not very good person in my teen years. Got into a lot of trouble. Barely graduated. After high school, I tried going to college, promptly got kicked out within a month for selling weed, and just started working regular, dead-end jobs until I got back into the creative arts. Looking back, if it weren’t for writing, I would be dead or in jail now. I don’t think there’s any question about that.
LGT: I loved Crooked Smile and was very impressed by how adept you were at handling such nihilistic subject matter. I read somewhere that the book is semi-autobiographical, how deep did you dig to write it?
JM: Thank you, I really, really appreciate that. I’m glad you liked it. To answer your question, I dug to the bottom. I was already aware that my behaviour and alcoholism was killing me, and Crooked Smile was my way of really seeing myself by laying everything out on the paper, everything I hadn’t dealt with as a kid, everything that I’d done and felt guilt over, everything that had led me down the path I was on, which was one that was incredibly bleak. It was my way of opening myself up and digging up all the shit that I needed to see and come to terms with in order to finally change. Writing Crooked Smile saved my life.
LGT: Did you ever feel that you’d overexposed yourself?
JM: No. If anything, I think I could have exposed more. There were still things I chose not to write about for various reasons. Whether it was because it would make the character almost irredeemable, or because I simply wasn’t ready to write about because of how painful it would be. There are still some things in my life I’m unable to write about, much less talk about.
LGT: For anyone who hasn’t yet read it, how would you describe Crooked Smile?
JM: I consider it a mix between a recovery novel and an existential, black comedy. It’s about the darkest time in my life, and maybe the most consequential time in my life, because the decisions made and insights gained during that time and over the course of writing about it were quite literally the difference between life and death. My liver was beginning to fail by the time I was twenty-four, and Crooked Smile is about the experiences that led to finally coming face-to-face with that reality—that I either had to change my lifestyle and face the trauma and guilt that created it, or accept that I was going to die young. And with such heavy subject matter, I tried to inject some amount of humour into the book as a way of cushioning the blow, because inevitably, when you’re that much of a drunk and a fuckup, there are going to be moments of hilarity perforating the black hole.
LGT: Tell me about one of your best writing moments.
JM: I think my best writing moments began happening after Crooked Smile was finished, and I had gotten sober. After how painful and soul-wrenching of an experience writing that book was, just getting to sit down with a clear and happier mind and writing whatever fun story I felt like writing, it was like this childlike excitement overcame me, like “Oh, this is why you do this. This is really, really fun. It doesn’t always have to be one big therapy session.” I’ve never enjoyed writing as much as I do now that I’m sober and in a better place. I feel more creative, more driven, and just more excited about what’s to come. I’m finally looking forward to things again.
LGT: What are you working on now?
JM: I’ve been working on my next collection of short stories, titled The Absence of Death. It’s all stories revolving around, well, death and dying. What comes after, coming to terms with one’s own mortality, coming to terms with the death of a loved one, of an enemy, of the abuse suffered at the hands of someone who is no longer alive. Everything. There’s a lot of elements of surrealism and magical realism, horror, sci-fi, all grounded with a sense of realism to make it still very rooted in literary fiction. And I haven’t announced this yet, but one story that was going to be a part of the book ended up becoming a full novella, and it’s going to be published separately through Anxiety Press some time at the end of the year or early 2023. It’s the story of an immortal man who doesn’t want to be immortal, and spends thousands and thousands of years wandering the earth, trying to find a way to finally die. It gets real trippy, surreal, philosophical, and I am so excited about it. One beta-reader said it reminded them of a mix between Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha and Philip K. Dick. Which is an incredible compliment to me. So that will be my third book, and the short story collection is still in progress and will be my fourth.
LGT: What does literary success look like to you?
JM: A life where writing can pay my bills and take care of my family without having to work another day job. Ideally, I’d like to be popular enough that I never have to use social media ever again. We can all dream, can’t we?
LGT: What advice would you give your younger self?
JM: Don’t be a fucking asshole. And take your meds.
LGT: If there was one person (contemporary or historical) you could spend a day with, who would you choose and why? How would you spend the day?
JM: My wife. I don’t really like most other people. I’m a big proponent of “Don’t meet your heroes.” All the people I can think of, in reality I have a feeling we wouldn’t like each other much. Best to keep the relationship to the art and not the person.
LGT: Now for the name game. Name three authors who inspire you:
JM: 1. Scott McClanahan. He changed the way I see writing. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it weren’t for his work. 2. Ted Chiang. He showed me what’s possible when you combine imagination with research and knowledge. 3. Donald Glover. His show Atlanta is the perfect combination of surrealism and brutal realism that I aspire to reach in my own work.
LGT: Three books that stunned you when you first read them (hallelujah moments):
JM: 1. On the Road by Jack Kerouac. It was integral to me as a young adult, and showed that I could step out of my comfort zone in the pursuit of something greater than myself. 2. Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs. The way he was able to take such traumatic, horrible things in his life and find some humour in it as a way to face those things, it just flipped on a light in my head. And 3. Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski, for a lot of the same reasons: The total openness and honesty, and finding humour in the horror of childhood. It really helped me re-contextualize my own upbringing, and change the narrative in a way that gave me some amount of power over what I couldn’t control at the time.
LGT: Three favourite books not included above:
JM: Exhalation by Ted Chiang, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn, and Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson. All incredibly beautiful books for very different reasons.
LGT: Three favourite films:
JM: Cool Hand Luke is my favourite film ever. God, I love that movie. Then I gotta go with Raiders of the Lost Ark, and maybe Mr. Nobody. I’d love to write a movie like that.
LGT: Three recurring songs on your playlist:
JM: Where is my Mind? by the Pixies is my favourite song ever, always on the playlist. Then right now, Saviour by Kendrick Lamar, and Dear Mr. Fantasy by Traffic.
LGT: Any final words of wisdom?
JM: Don’t burp through a straw.
LGT: Thanks Jack.
Catch up with Jack Moody on Twitter while you can.
LG Thomson is the author of seven novels, including Boyle’s Law, a noir thriller set in the Highlands. Her writing has appeared in a wide range of anthologies and literary publications including Wyldblood Magazine, Epoch Press, and Art North. Her latest book, Modernist Dreams Brutalist Nightmares, is a narrative memoir about being part of the first generation to grow up in Scotland’s most ambitious New Town. It will be published by Outcast Press in October 2022. Find out more here.