My interview with my wife. Not on video.

“Wanna interview me?”
“Sure. Oh, you mean, now?”
“Kinda.”
“I don’t get time to think about my questions?”
“No, you do.”
“HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE A BOOK? ………….. Jill, that’s the first question.”
“Oh, we’re not interviewing on video?”
“No. You can write it. Answer the question.”

I wrote Red Audrey as a short story when I was in graduate school. The story had almost the entire arc: Emily, Audrey, Nick, UPS, Hawaii, the clubs, accident. Jane wasn’t named in the story, and everyone called her honey. So, I was 23. And then I wrote it in scenes when I was 27. I had folders labeled “Emily” “Nick” and “Audrey” and I would write scenes at work and then put them in the appropriate folder. I’d wander around and think, Now I need a scene that gets me to blah. Or, I should write about that weird catacomb jazz club. In the end, I printed all the scenes out and spread them on my bed. I assembled the novel like that.

And then edited it for like 3 years.

I wrote Field Guide in a summer. And had to re-write it twice. My editor hated it. She said it was joyless. She didn’t really say that, but that’s what it felt like she said. And she was entirely right. The drafts were joyless.

Giraffe People was written over about 7 months. I wrote when I felt like it. And the story was just there. Like picking fruit. It was miraculous.

TALK ABOUT HOW PEOPLE ALWAYS THINK THEY’RE CHARACTERS IN YOUR BOOKS.

That’s an interesting thing. I suppose because my work is familiar. I mean, I write about things you think about, don’t I? That’s what I try to do anyway. To write about the experience of being human. And so it seems familiar to you. And you suspect that we had a conversation like that at some point. And you know you do that certain thing that appears on page 142, so I must mean you, right? I hope people do it because the work dings inside them. Lights them up.

TALK ABOUT HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT CANDY.

This is your question? OK. I love candy. Especially Japanese candy. I don’t really see any reason to eat anything else. When I was a kid in Germany, you could get these giant gummi bears in the vending machines. Everywhere! They were everywhere and they were the size of rats. It was the happiest thing ever.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT SPOKANE?

Trains. The trees here. The parks. I love the river and the brick houses. I love the derelict buildings and the hiking trails. I love how many farmers’ markets we have. There are like seven and a half thousand farmers’ markets here now. Or anyway like three. It’s amazing.

We have deer in our neighborhood. Porcupine, skunks, hawks, coyotes. I love the way Spokane resists change and then suddenly paints bike lanes all over the place. The yoga studios and the coffee houses are exactly proportionate.

WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL BE DIFFICULT ABOUT WRITING A COMEDY?

Well, probably just the sitting down and writing part. I have this story in my head — have had for a year — but still haven’t sat down to write it. I used to have awful dates. I mean mythological, they were so awful. I would go home sometimes and check myself for battle scars, shrapnel. The comedy is just endless. Lesbian dates are a particular kind of surreal.

I’m not really answering the question, am I?

WHICH OF YOUR CHARACTERS WOULD BE THE MOST IRRITATING TO KNOW IN REAL LIFE?

I refuse to answer this question. This question is traitorous. I like all of them. Not like children, or whatever, but I like all of them. That dude who was always hitting on Claire was an asshole though. So I pick him.

BUT I DIDN’T ASK YOU WHICH ONE YOU DISLIKED, I ASKED WHICH WOULD BE THE MOST IRRITATING?

Sheesh. I don’t know. Jane, I suppose. She has terrible boundaries. So there’d always be calamity and shit.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE SOMETHING ABOUT EITHER OF YOUR FIRST TWO BOOKS, WHAT WOULD YOU GO BACK AND CHANGE?

I wish I hadn’t put everything I put into Red Audrey. I mean, I put everything I could think of into that novel. The god stuff had no place there. That wasn’t Jane’s issue, it was mine. I wish I hadn’t quite pushed the language as hard as I did. I made it work too hard.

I love Field Guide. I wouldn’t change anything about it, except the title. We lie too much sometimes in fiction. Love stories fucking suck. Some of them really fucking suck. And we have to write those too. The nearly stories. The we-tried-so-hard-and-still-everything-burned stories.

WHY ARE YOU SO MEAN TO RED AUDREY?

What now? How am I mean?

TO THE BOOK? WHY ARE YOU SO MEAN TO THE BOOK?

First-pancake syndrome? I don’t know. It’s your fault actually. You told me parts were overwritten and I asked for an example and you read me one and I can’t think about that book the same way now. And I was young. I wrote that book a decade ago. It’s a first novel. It has first novel problems.

BUT WHAT DOES YOUR RESPONSE SAY TO THOSE OF US WHO LOVE THAT BOOK?

That’s a good question. You have to understand artists operate in a constant state of redress. We’re always looking to improve, to tell something better, to express an experience differently. If I couldn’t see the weaknesses in my novels, then I couldn’t strengthen them. You should have less faith in me as an artist if I tell you my work is flawless. It isn’t. It’s like me. Still working to figure shit out.

I’m glad you love Red Audrey. It’s gratifying that you love Red Audrey. I feel about the novel the way I feel about my teenaged self. Wistful and proud and embarrassed. We don’t have to agree about my work. If I were satisfied with it, I’d stop working.

WHAT’S THE BEST NEW THING YOU’VE DISCOVERED IN THE LAST YEAR?

Yard work. Yard work feels like meditation. I sometimes wander around looking for weeds. Why do I do that? I don’t know. It’s just so satisfying to pull them out.

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Jill Malone

Jill Malone grew up in a military family, went to German kindergarten, and lived across from a bakery that made gummi bears the size of mice. She has lived on the East Coast and in Hawaii, and for the last seventeen years in Spokane with her son, two dogs, a hedgehog, and a lot of outdoor gear. She looks for any excuse to play guitar. Jill is married to a performance artist and addiction counselor who makes the best risotto on the planet.

Giraffe People is her third novel. Her first novel, Red Audrey and the Roping, was a Lambda finalist and won the third annual Bywater Prize for Fiction. A Field Guide to Deception, her second novel, was a finalist for the Ferro-Grumley, and won the Lambda Literary Award and the Great Northwest Book Festival.

Giraffe People

Giraffe People

Between God and the army, fifteen-year-old Cole Peters has more than enough to rebel against. But this Chaplain’s daughter isn’t resorting to drugs or craziness. Truth to tell, she’s content with her soccer team and her band and her white bread boyfriend.

And then, of course, there’s Meghan.

Meghan is eighteen years old and preparing for entry into West Point. For this she has sponsors: Cole’s parents. They’re delighted their daughter is finally looking up to someone. Someone who can tutor her and be a friend.

But one night that relationship changes and Cole’s world flips.

Giraffe People is a potent reminder of the rites of passage and passion that we all endure on our road to growing up and growing strong. Award-winning author Jill Malone tells a story of coming out and coming of age, giving us a take that is both subtle and fresh.

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A Field Guide to Deception

A Field Guide to Deception

In Jill Malone’s second novel, A Field Guide to Deception, nothing is as simple as it appears: community, notions of motherhood, the nature of goodness, nor even compelling love. Revelations are punctured and then revisited with deeper insight, alliances shift, and heroes turn anti-hero—and vice versa.

With her aunt’s death Claire Bernard loses her best companion, her livelihood, and her son’s co-parent. Malone’s smart, intriguing writing beguiles the reader into this taut, compelling story of a makeshift family and the reawakening of a past they’d hoped to outrun. Claire’s journey is the unifying tension in this book of layered and shifting alliances.

A Field Guide to Deception is a serious novel filled with snappy dialogue, quick-moving and funny incidents, compelling characterizations, mysterious plot twists, and an unexpected climax. It is a rich, complex tale for literary readers.

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Red Audrey and the Roping

Red Audrey and the Roping

Occasionally a debut novel comes along that rocks its readers back on their heels. Red Audrey and the Roping is one of that rare and remarkable breed. With storytelling as accomplished as successful literary novelists like Margaret Atwood and Sarah Waters, Jill Malone takes us on a journey through the heart of Latin professor Jane Elliot.

Set against the dramatic landscapes and seascapes of Hawaii, this is the deeply moving story of a young woman traumatized by her mother’s death. Scarred by guilt, she struggles to find the nerve to let love into her life again. Afraid to love herself or anyone else, Jane falls in love with risk, pitting herself against the world with dogged, destructive courage. But finally she reaches a point where there is only one danger left worth facing. The sole remaining question for Jane is whether she is willing to accept her history, embrace her damage, and take a chance on love.

As well as a gripping and emotional story, Red Audrey and the Roping is a remarkable literary achievement. The breathtaking prose evokes setting, characters, and relationships with equal grace. The dialogue sparks and sparkles. Splintered fragments of narrative come together to form a seamless suspenseful story that flows effortlessly to its dramatic conclusion.

Winner of the Bywater Prize for Fiction, Red Audrey and the Roping is one of the most memorable first novels you will ever read.

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