March 31, 2009

To Rabbit or Not to Rabbit, that is the...3 Questions with John Jeter

The discussion went like this:

Me: Can I have a rabbit?
Him: Yes. For about fifteen minutes. Then the cats will kill it.
Me: Do you REALLY think the cats would kill a rabbit?
Him: Absolutely.
Me: But that New York rabbit was a BIG rabbit. Bigger than Boggart and very STRONG in the feet. Our rabbit could defend himself.
Him: The cats would kill him.
Me: Maybe HE would kill the cats.
Scott: Maybe. Like if they choked on him while swallowing his inside parts.

HEY! Remember the FAQ I was building via blog posts? ME NEITHER!
Remember when I used to do THREE QUESTIONS with other novelists? ME. FREAKIN’. NEITHER. But I am going to do both again. I will start today, with an interview with John Jeter.

He and I have the SAME initials, which means I will use first names since otherwise the interview would read like..
JJ: Hi back!
JJ: Which JJ are you?
JJ: Who can tell? Just go with it.

A little about John’s book…

"The Plunder Room's characters are vivid and believable, while the sense of setting and place are beautifully rendered and true to the modern-day South. Any Deep South venue is refreshing, particularly when tour-guided by an author with John Jeter's skills. But it is the author's sardonic wit, expressed through Randol's conversations, that sparks and livens the book into a good read."--San Antonio Express-News

Joss: Do you think of yourself as a Southern writer, and what does that MEAN to you?

John: To me, the South is and always has been fertile soil, not just for writers and creativity. To mix metaphors up real good, the South’s also a deep well for artists to draw on, especially artists in search of allegories for the national zeitgeist. After all, what better place than the region still haunted by the humiliation of the War of Northern Aggression -- ring in the shopworn Faulkner quote here -- to reflect on Going Home Again, especially with our tail between our legs, to face … whatever needs facing?

It delights me no end to have been born, by the grace of God, in Georgia, while Dad was stationed in Fort Benning, only to move around the country (and Europe) while he served for 28 years in the military. And then I wound up back in South Carolina, where I could plunder my family’s roots, 350 years’ deep in the Piedmont’s red-clay soil. So, yes, I do consider myself a Southern writer, not only because I live here and my family’s cemetery and chapel are here, but because I love it here and treasure the South for the creative richness it has to offer the rest of the planet.

Joss: I know you are an an "organic writer," (someone who writes their way into a book instead of working from an outline) Can you talk a little bit about your process and what you thought the book would be versus what it became?

John: My name is John. And I . . . am . . . a Recovering . . . Journalist. I spent 10 years addicted to Adrenaline, namely the high-octane Deadline Adrenaline brand. After breaking free of that Addiction, which took another 10 or so years, I must let my right brain take over. Which means God does most of the work. I tell people that I simply do the typing. A friend calls the process moodling. I moodle primarily in the shower and on the way to sleep.

THE PLUNDER ROOM was written almost exclusively away from the laptop, with explosive epiphanies during periods when I was wet, naked or horizontal. The words were actually typed later, over three months. After the protagonist’s name is determined and begins to take form and shape and voice, so follows the plot. The protagonist and I begin to have lengthy discussions. The protagonist usually gives the most powerful direction about which way the story goes. About two-thirds of the way through, usually four-fifths of the way, just before reaching the climax, where trouble’s going to get serious, there’s an explosive breakthrough - and the twist-at-the-end comes in a flash. After all, I am related by marriage to O. Henry and I own William Sydney Porter’s silverware, so I suppose there’s some flatware osmosis. The book usually gets served up to me the way it wants to, not necessarily the way I think it’s supposed to.

Joss: Tell us where, internally, you think THE PLUNDER ROOM came from?

John: In his brief, dense and brilliant treatise, “Indirections, for those who want to write,” Sidney Cox says you write because you’re upset about something - and that you should have fun. He says a lot of other things, too, but those two points are crucial. A few years ago, my father gave me a box that contained reams of mementoes my grandfather had saved. I loosely based the war hero in THE PLUNDER ROOM on my war-hero grandfather, the greatest man I’ve ever known. I got to thinking about Grandfather’s virtues, as an officer, a true, valiant, chivalrous Southern gentleman.

And about his Greatest Generation. And about the pierced Goth kids and Britney Spears wannabes who patronize our rock club, The Handlebar. And I got to thinking about Grandfather fighting the Battle of the Bulge in his “noble” war. And about my father’s two tours as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. And about Iraq. And George Bush. I didn’t get “upset,” as Sidney Cox wrote, I got pissed off. So I wrote THE PLUNDER ROOM, using the South as an ideal location and quirky Southern characters for an allegory about the nation’s slow slide, the corrosion of our core virtues over the last several decades. Per Sidney, I also had a lot of fun.

THANKS JOHN, for reminding me to have fun as I stutter and rumble into a first chapter again. Meanwhile, in LAPINE NEWS Gilbert (owner of the NYC RABBIT) sent this video response to Scott’s argument:

Posted by joshilyn at March 31, 2009 11:57 AM

The bunny in that video is insane! Poor Max. Thank goodness he can climb (!) trees.

I've always heard you can't have both a rabbit and a cat because the rabbit will kill the cat. The cat thinks he's the predator and this is a yummy bunny and he attacks the rabbit, who promptly responds by ripping up the cat with his mighty feet and claws. It's said to be rather vicious and frightening, actually. I've never heard of a cat winning against a full-grown rabbit.

Posted by: Holly at March 31, 2009 12:30 PM

"flatware osmisis" Snurk. Person who writes that I'll read.

Posted by: rams at March 31, 2009 1:48 PM

I have several friends who have cats AND rabbits -- and the rabbits win, every time....


Posted by: CJ at March 31, 2009 3:03 PM

I've never owned a rabbit, but based on my former guinea pig, Ginger, who used to bite my older sister all the time (yay Ginger!), I plead with you on behalf of the cats.

I bet you could get them to coexist if you got them all as youngsters, but seriously, getting adult animals even of the same species to not-kill-each-other is sometimes more work than it's worth.

Posted by: firefly at March 31, 2009 6:40 PM

We used to have a neighborhood rabbit, someone's escaped pet, and it was enormous, 1.5 times the size of our giant 15 pound cat. It lurked in the bushes of the neighborhood, only dashing into view when there was a cat about. This beast would literally and I'm not making this up I swear, it would chase our cats into and through and around the house and yard. Totally unprovoked too, it wasn't that our cats were trying to mess with this beastie. It had it in for cats apparently. I was glad we moved, the cats were very relieved. That bunny was mean mean mean.
So, based on that one experience, I'd say nope on the rabbit idea.

Posted by: JulieZS at March 31, 2009 8:45 PM

Get a rabbit! Get a rabbit! Get a rabbit!

p.s. Thanks for the interview. This book is now on my wishlist.

Posted by: nik at April 1, 2009 4:02 AM

. . video trailers for books? When are YOU doing one? ;-)

Posted by: Brigitte at April 1, 2009 7:49 AM

Wow... that is one BADASS AN A BUNNIES. ;)

I know Boggart is the bad cat, but are you quite sure he can take a bunny?

Thanks for the three questions. I have to see if that book is available on KINDLE!

Posted by: Aimee at April 1, 2009 10:22 AM

I like how the rabbit eventually learns to go after the NON-BITING end of the snake.

Thanks for bringing back 3 questions!

Posted by: JenniferG at April 1, 2009 10:48 AM

Scott is correct. I know this because my cat once presented me - quite proudly - with the back half of a very large jackrabbit. The back half. No head, no neck, no shoulders, no front legs. Those were the tasty parts, I guess.

Not pretty.

Posted by: Amy-Go at April 1, 2009 3:16 PM

Been there, done that...

Take my word for it....NO Wabbits

Posted by: jean at April 1, 2009 3:26 PM

Just to fuel the fire - we had rabbits over the course of about ten years. Let's see - there was Max, then Winter, and finally Nimbus. Max was a little French Lop, Winter was a mix, but looked like your typical white shorthaired bunny. Nimbus was a French Angora - GIIII-ANT rabbit and then double that with hair.
None of our cats (and we had dozens of those) killed any of the rabbits. Of course we didn't ever leave them ALONE with the rabbits. The rabbits lived in cages between holding, running about, or grooming periods.
But in the bunnies out period, the cats loved to watch the rabbits and a few even liked to play together - I thought the cats were truly chasing the rabbit until the rabbit turned around and then chased the cats. It was a game. If the cats got too surroundy and obnoxious, the rabbits all seemed to hold their own and kicked the cats out of their space.
The cats did like to pretend to catch and eat the rabbit groomings however, which was annoying because then I had cats gagging up rabbit haired furballs.
And the rabbits liked to eat both paper and electrical cords. So they had to be watched and not allowed to hide behind furniture where electrical cords like to lurk invisibly.
Also, rabbits are great for recycling vegetable scraps into wonderful compost that can go straight into the garden without burning plants.
Cleaning cages is the not fun part. Which is why we stopped having rabbits after we stopped having kids willing to clean cages.

Posted by: Laume at April 1, 2009 10:18 PM

And our rabbits never did get the whole potty training in the house thing. They rarely peed in the house, but they dropped little round rabbit "pellets" wherever they were. Easy to pick up, but still.
My mom and sister had an apartment rabbit, sans cats, but with a rabbit litter box on the balcony, and he was totally potty trained. They had to do odd things to keep their electrical cords out of bunny's reach however.

Posted by: Laume at April 1, 2009 10:22 PM

I love the rabbits, but I'd be worried about the kitties.

Here's where I get my daily bunny fix:

Such disapproval, in such endearing packages! :)

Great interview, too!

Posted by: Kim at April 2, 2009 5:39 AM