…with Jeremy Broyles

Ariana:

Do you ever use an outline to write your stories?

Jeremy:

I don’t use a traditional outline. I know the beats I want to hit, and I find myself writing toward them. They serve as the keystones within each of the scenes I write. I like to have those in place first and then work backwards to fill in the gaps. I think this strategy helps me find my way. Otherwise, it’s simple for me to get lost.

Ariana:

What is your favorite character in any new work you’re currently working on? How does this character compare to the characters in What Becomes of Ours?

Jeremy:

I’m currently working on a short story with a protagonist named Oswald Zuniga. I’m a complete sucker for Oswald. He’s a science fiction fan living in central Arizona amidst circumstances he finds utterly surreal. I like how he forges his way through the world around—and closing in on—him. He has little in common with the characters in What Becomes of Ours. In a certain way, however, I would argue they are kindred spirits. Collectively, they feel stifled by the rules imposed by forces largely unseen and irresistible. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, they are clever enough to invent alternatives they feel suit them more appropriately. That cleverness, however, comes with consequences.

Ariana:

What attracted you to submitting to the Afternoon Shorts series?

Jeremy:

What Becomes of Ours is such a bastard child. To begin, it’s a bit of an awkward length. It’s much too long as a short story but far short of being a novel. Additionally, I will readily admit that the subject matter is not for all readers. But its peculiar quirks and challenges are a large part of why I love it so. When I sent it to ELJ’s Afternoon Shorts series, I was hopeful based on what I knew of them and the series that they would be willing and, frankly, brave enough to publish the story. When they did so, I was utterly thrilled. Even now I remain utterly thrilled.

Ariana:

If What Becomes of Ours was a soap opera or mini-series, who would play the leading roles?

Jeremy:

Pete Walsh would be played by Zachary Levi. (A) I’m a huge Chuck fan. Let’s get that admission out of the way straight off. (B) Levi has this uncanny talent of communicating emotional turmoil and sincerity with a mere look.

Clarissa Walsh would be played by Kate Beckinsale. She has this presence about her that is both alluring and slightly intimidating.

Daisy Simmons would be played by Zooey Deschanel. (A) She has a talent for conveying innocence and intelligence simultaneously. (B) Surely I would be invited to the set at least once and get the chance to meet her, right? Not that I would be capable of more than unintelligible gibberish that would succeed only in frightening her, but let me have my dreams.

Sal Seton would be played by Daniel Radcliffe. Still desperate to distance himself from his turn as Harry Potter, I think Radcliffe would jump at the opportunity to play this role. In fact, does anyone have his contact information? Let’s make this thing happen.

Ariana:

Describe your style of writing as a weather forecast.

Jeremy:

Delightful prompt. Here’s my best go at it. Dry and extreme heat broken up only by intermittent blowing dust storms, each measuring several miles wide. No precipitation expected.

Ariana:

What’s the quirkiest part of your writing ritual?

Jeremy:

I don’t know that I have a specific ritual or quirks. What I can attest to is a strange symptom expressed when I write. Writing causes me to become thirstier than at any other point in my life. For some context, that life has a fair amount of physical activity. I ran track in college. I work out three times a week. I have no car, so I bike everywhere I go—on average sixty miles per week. But never am I as thirsty as when I write.

Ariana:

What’s your favorite memory about your first car? Why?

Jeremy:

My first car was a 1985 Ford Thunderbird, and I adored it. Every last working part on that damned car broke at least once. As a consequence, I was provided a thorough education in car maintenance that I never wanted. One especially delightful problem that recurred with frequency was the ignition switch in the steering column would slip ever so slightly from the brackets that held it in place. The car would still start and operate fine so long as I held the key in the on position. The moment I let go, the car would die. One night when I was in college, I was on my way to pick up my date when the ignition switch let go again. Not only did I have to talk to her over my burning right shoulder because I was holding the car on, but that poor girl spent her time in the car rooted to the seat because I had no interior on the passenger side door. There was only the handle and several square feet of exposed, treacherous metal. I did not get a second date with her, but I loved my car all the same.

Ariana:

Where do you find your inspiration to write your stories?

Jeremy:

Strange places. Places I never expected. What Becomes of Ours, for example, is inspired if somewhat loosely by Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, a book I spent the majority of my life loathing. It is only recently in the last four to five years I have come to appreciate the novel. I find myself attracted to the extraordinary/surreal in what seems at first so very mundane. Oswald’s story, “Oswald Zuniga’s Apocalypse Box,” is inspired by a small wooden box built and given to me by a close friend as a going-away present. This box—innocuous in most all ways—got me wondering what I would put inside. Then I wondered what a character named Oswald might put inside. Then I imagined what he might put inside if he was making himself an apocalypse preparedness kit. Then I became curious about what such a character would put in such a box if he was attempting to jump start the apocalypse himself because he got tired of waiting for it. For the most part, I get caught up in my own imagination, and my stories spin off in the process of me chasing my own tail.

Ariana:

Have you ever used an outline to write a longer story? If so, did you find it beneficial? Why or why not?

Jeremy:

I recently finished a novel and have begun shopping it. Much like the shorter stories I write, I have no specific outline. I find them to be too restrictive. I did, however, know the beats that I wanted to put in place. Forgive the following tortured analogy, but I thought of a perfectly still pond. Then into the center of that pond a stone is dropped. Concentric rings spread out from that central point. The outermost rings less energetic than those closest to the center, but all rings caused by the same event. I imagined looking down on this process and taking a still frame before the first ring reached the shore. Each distinct ripple, a specific moment in time, served as the point toward which I needed to write. I don’t know that it was a strategy I would suggest to others or ever repeat myself, but it got me through the novel.

Ariana:

Do you feel it’s more fun to play in the sand or in the water at the beach? Why?

Jeremy:

Oh, the water. Absolutely. And it’s by a wide margin. My closest friends and I recently spent a week at the Outer Banks off the coast of North Carolina. I imposed only one rule: get in the ocean every day. Damn the weather, crowds, surf, water temperature, or tangled fishing lines; just get in the water. Don’t get me wrong—the sand is delightful. Warm between the toes and as soft as baby powder. But we as a species do not come from sand. We come from the ocean. And every time we plunge back in, it’s a homecoming of sorts. Besides, for as many oceans as we have on this planet, we get shockingly few chances to play in any of them. When those opportunities arise, skip the sandcastles and bodysurf instead. It’s just the right thing to do.

 

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