In Friday’s sesh, Brandon and I talk about how much an author agrees with the argument set up within his or her work, why Brandon writes, whose hands Brandon would like to see his work in, “Back to the Future,” and the meaning of life. Which may or may not have anything to do with Jesus.
RP: One thing that stood out to me from the get-go was that Vez can’t seem to put his finger on the meaning of his life or life in general—understandably so, I suppose. But what about Brandon? Does Brandon have a sense of the meaning of life?
BDJ: Monty Python does a good job.
RP: That didn’t go where you thought it would, did it?
BDJ: No! I do, though. I think that life is just a series of events, and you can do your best to adapt and react to those events in a way that makes things better for the people around you. I think that’s what I think, anyway.
RP: This is why I ask and why I put you on the spot: We’ve talked a little bit via email about our reasons for writing, and you said you don’t write to entertain. And then earlier in the conversation, you said something to the effect that, through your writing, you’re creating an argument. So, if one is to read Battle Rattle, then one would have to assume you’re creating this argument that begins with, “My character can’t figure out what meaning life could or shouldn’t have.” So, what I’m asking is, what is your level of agreement as the author with this argument you’re putting forth, and what is your reason for putting said argument forth in the first place?
BDJ: The argument I’m putting forth is, the way that Vez is choosing to live is not the right way. And if I was to walk into specific rooms of dudes and say that, they would just be like, “What are you talking about? Of course this is fine. This is the way it’s always been. My grandpa, when he was in World War II, slept with prostitutes and never talked about his problems, and he was just fine”—also probably known as a raving drunk who hated himself and treated people like crap. Not all of them were that way, but a lot of people were because they never talked about anything that they probably should’ve been talking about; that way, people could understand how the world really works as opposed to pretending that it’s pretty everywhere.
There are other rooms where people might say, “I don’t want to read about that guy because there’s nobody like that,” which is also false, because there are plenty of people who are like that, and if you just dismiss them outright and say that they made those choices and they’re just bad when the system has been designed to guide them down that path, then you’re not recognizing the fact that they, like you, are human and are faced with choices every day, and sometimes they don’t make the best choice. You might make a not-awesome choice because you don’t even realize that it’s bad.
Through fiction, I’m able to make this argument in a “safe” way, whereas if I just went out and lived the life of this character, it’s going to hurt people. Fiction doesn’t have to hurt people.
In a perfect world, SVU would eliminate rape and all this stuff because people would see how bad and awful that is and how it affects people in such a terrible way, and then no one would do it. But that’s just not reality.
Hopefully it shows people how terrible it is without creating hysteria or feelings that you can’t trust anyone—which is not what you want, either. But with fiction or any art, the highest goal to me is to create something that is capable of eliminating some of the ugliest parts of the world by letting people view it and see the impact of those ugly things—because we forgot they exist—without having to experience them in reality. It’s the whole “history repeats itself” thing.
RP: OK. Glad we cleared that up. So, who do you hope this novella’s going to reach? If you could put this in the hands of anybody, you most hope it would be in the hands of Jesus and fill-in-the-blank?
BDJ: Young guys who are considering joining the military or who are unsure of what they want to do with their lives and don’t have a lot of guidance. Ideally, this book would’ve been in my hands when I was 18. But it wasn’t.
RP: But it wasn’t. You lose.
BDJ: So I fail until me and Doc Brown go back in time, and then I can give this book to myself. Although, I guess there’s the risk that we touch, and the universe explodes or whatever.