Interview: The Transgressions of Jack Moody
When did you first get the idea for Crooked Smile? How long did you work on it?
The first chapter of Crooked Smile that I wrote was the second chapter in the book, immediately following being discharged from a psychiatric ward in 2018. The style of that chapter is noticeably different from the rest of the book, because I was still pretty deep in the throes of a manic episode. I remember getting home, being told to take time off from my job because of my mental state, and with nothing else to do, just vomiting thousands of words onto the page, trying to make sense of the whole ordeal. I remember I was still wearing my hospital bracelet as I wrote it. After finishing the story I kind of just realized that I was entering a new chapter in my life, and things were about to change—which they did. So, I guess that’s when I realized what I was writing was going to become the novel. Almost every chapter of the novel was written within days or weeks of the actual events they were based on. For that reason it made sense to title each chapter as the month and year that they occurred. I finished Crooked Smile at the end of 2020, a few months after the events of the final chapter, which was in June of that year. So the process of writing Crooked Smile lasted from the beginning of 2018 to the end of 2020.
Did you do anything else while you were working on this novel? Do you have a day job?
I had multiple jobs, yeah. The first job was this shitty gig working for a catering company that brought food to fancy downtown tech companies for their lunch breaks. That job I was fired from in the summer of 2018, which I actually write about in the book. I had just recently been broken up with, and had embarked on a ten-day bender that I’m sure was the reason for being fired. I wasn’t the best example of a model employee. After getting the news and receiving my final paycheck that day, I cashed it and went to a bar at eleven in the morning to get drunk. That’s when I got the call from my first publisher informing me that my book, which was Dancing to Broken Records, was accepted for publication. At that point I just went off the rails on a massive drinking binge, both out of celebration and a weak attempt at suicide, I think. It’s all in Crooked Smile. After that I worked at a fancy restaurant for a while, got fired, and then worked at a bar until the pandemic hit. I work at a different restaurant now. I’ve always been in the service industry. I also work as a freelance journalist, publishing work in various magazines and newspapers under a different name, but fuck knows that doesn’t pay much.
Do you like editing your own work? Is that a different mental process for you?
I like it better than someone else editing it. But I’m stubborn and benefit from another pair of eyes to clean up my prose. It’s not much of a different process for me, though. It’s just a matter of reading and re-reading and re-reading again, going over everything until I’m sure each sentence is exactly the way I want it. I’m pretty meticulous with my choice of words. Editing always takes longer than actually writing the work in the first place.
Have you ever found yourself struggling to get into a particular character, and if so, do you have advice for how a writer could break out of that, and try to get to know their characters better?
Well, the autobiographical stuff, like Crooked Smile, is pretty self-explanatory. The character is me. The issue is more being able to tap into the emotions I was experiencing during the events that I’m attempting to write about. Sometimes I need to force myself back into the headspace, which can be painful, but for me at least, feels necessary. For purely fictional stuff though, there’s always some person or composite of people that I use as fuel for the characters’ drives and thought processes.
And first of all, don’t take my advice—what the fuck do I know. But if I were asked, I’d say to go out into the world and just listen. Study people’s mannerisms, how they speak, what they talk about. Watch their body language. Just listening to and watching people will put you inside their head, and you’ll find someone forming in your own imagination based off these strangers you meet. Then you can fill in the spaces on the page. One good thing that came from living on a barstool for six years was that you become familiar with the similarities that people share. Studying real people allows you to create real, three-dimensional characters—not caricatures—in your own work.
Do you think on a sentence level, when you’re writing or editing?
Yeah, absolutely. Each sentence is like a puzzle to me. Every single word of mine you read was specifically put in that exact place for a purpose, whether to help further the narrative or elicit emotion, or tell you something about a character to make them more real and relatable. I’ll stare at a single sentence for an hour until I’m sure every word is the perfect word needed to convey what I’m trying to put across to the reader.
How often do you consider your readership when you’re writing? Or are you only thinking about what you as the writer want?
I do not. The minute I begin taking into account anything that comes after the process of creation while I’m still creating the work, then I need to delete the whole thing and begin again. Worrying about how your writing will be perceived and letting that govern the end result of your work, that’s how you get ass cancer and kidney stones. Fuck all that noise.
What's the worst advice you often hear authors giving to other writers?
That your art is perfect the way it is because it’s yours. No it’s not. That’s how you get complacent and stagnant. There’s always something you can be doing better, something you can learn to further your craft and ability. This is a job like anything else. You need to study. You need to challenge and push yourself, and you need to practice. We’re not all fuckin’ Mozart.
Are you involved in any literary communities?
Sure, I’ve met some pretty cool people. Some horrible pieces of shit too that never got their ass beat for running their mouth. But that’s just humanity.
If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would that be and would you do it?
No, I don’t think so. Everything I’ve done and how I did it led me right here. And I like where I’m at. Butterfly Effect and all that shit.
Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry?
Not in terms of age, no. It’s a mental thing to me. Once you become complacent and refuse to grow, refuse to learn, then you’re fucked. But that can happen at any age. As long as you’re still sharp in the head, you can do this for decades, and start whenever you want. John Fante went blind from diabetes but still dictated the entirety of Dreams From Bunker Hillfrom memory for his wife to type out for him. When you have the drive and the passion for it, there’s really nothing stopping you. Not even ass cancer or kidney stones.
End of Interview
Jack Moody is a novelist, poet, and short story writer from wherever he happens to be at the time. He is the author of the short stories collection Dancing to Broken Records, released through Beacon Publishing Group, as well as being a staff writer for the literary magazine and podcast Brick Moon Fiction. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in multiple publications including Expat Press, Horror Sleaze Trash, A Thin Slice of Anxiety, and The Saturday Evening Post. Moody's forthcoming debut novel Crooked Smile is set to release March 15th, 2022 through Outcast-Press. He didn't go to college.