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5 Minutes, 5 Questions With… Jarod Powell, author of Inheritance and Other Stories

JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
Jarod Powell, author of Inheritance and Other Stories
(Outskirts Press)

Inheritance and Other Stories is a collection of short stories that features the struggles and victories of men from all walks of life. A hopelessly dysfunctional family holds a formal debate and fights through the cliché.

An agoraphobic teenager finds the gumption to enter the world he observes in a single moment of guttural rage. A homeless man harasses a stranger with his visions of the San Fernando Valley as The Garden of Eden.

In the title story, a high school turns into a Biblical village square when a drug overdose turns a nobody into a mythical being.

Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the idea and inspiration to write Inheritance and Other Stories?

Jarod Powell: I’m at a stage in my life where the intersection at boyhood and manhood is physically in the rear-view. I still feel the need to revisit it, because I didn’t enjoy it the first time. None of us do. It’s the final, most excruciating growing pain a man faces. It’s inevitable. It’s universal.

Inheritance and Other Stories explores men and boys at pretty much all stages of psychological and emotional development. I really wanted to capture the image of that fork in the road and throughout those often-clumsy journeys.

Every prominent character in every story is some aspect of myself, moderately fictionalized. They could be you. They could be my dad. They could be any man you know or will know. That’s the thesis of the book.

If nothing else, I just needed to exorcise those demons on a personal level. I think the result is an honest look at growth, for better or worse, that’s accessible to everyone.

JP: What sets Inheritance and Other Stories apart from other novels in its genre?

JR: When I read books of similar themes, I either find them in the “young adult” section–which as a genre, in my opinion, generally pitches the intellectual ball way too low for its audience. Or you find some thinly-veiled autobiographical recollection by an author who is too detached or too many years removed from that experience to offer the type of visceral account that the intended audience craves.

As a teenager who loved modern literature, it was frustrating to find the well so dry. This book is written by a guy in the transition. I’m still in it. Young men need a book about the experience of being a young man and what people those young men grow up to be. They need it to be written from the trenches. I think that’s pretty rare.

JP: As an author, what are the keys to your success that lead to Inheritance and Other Stories getting out to the public?

JR: First of all, for a small press author with basically no means of marketing, the internet is essential. I work full-time, and I’m a full-time student. I have neither the financial resources or the time to properly promote this book in traditional print media, which is unfortunate. In my case, the internet is it–myspace, blogs, facebook. They simply aren’t optional when it comes to promotion.

Aside from that, my hometown newspaper was kind enough to feature the book on its front page. I come from a small town that I hated growing up, but let me tell you, those folks are my biggest fans. I’d say that half of my readership thus far came from that one small article in the Standard Democrat based in Sikeston, Missouri.

JP: As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take for you to start and finish Inheritance and Other Stories?

JR: Like I said before, this book was an exorcism of sorts. It was about clearing the junk out of my head, so I can go on and be a grown up. The biggest part of most of the protagonists’ identities is their youth and their maladjustment to the loss of youth. These stories were written in a span of 5 years starting at age 19.

Some were written from simple inspiration; some were written in creative writing classes. The biggest challenge is getting up and doing it, so having a formal deadline helps a lot. In my opinion, “writing when inspiration comes” is a bit of a myth. I’m a big believer in structure, so I write even when I feel completely brain dead. I write constantly, even when I don’t have the words.

Simple exercises help get words on page sometimes. To this day I use a method I learned in high school: Go through photo albums. Take one picture out at random, and write a scene about what might be going on the photograph. I went through several family photo albums when it was difficult to get moving.

JP: What’s next for Jarod Powell?

I’m preparing to move from St. Louis to Los Angeles in the coming weeks, to do a film production internship through the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University. Other than that, I’m actually adapting the title story in Inheritance and Other Stories to a feature-length screenplay.

I’m nearly finished with a book of prose poems, tentatively titled Poor Man’s Imaginary Friend, about a male hustler from rural Indiana. I’ll be done with my Bachelor’s degree next Spring, so I’m seriously considering graduate school. I’m happy to say that it’s only the beginning for me. The future’s looking pretty bright at the moment.


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