A short interview with Steven Zelko about his Smashwords publication The Jackdaw
Where did the idea to write the Jackdaw come from?
The original concept for the piece came from a film director friend who was looking for a short work to produce. He has a penchant for the surreal and had commissioned a few screenwriters for a work that captured it. One script came back from a writer in LA and he asked me to have a look it. At that stage, The Highwayman, as the piece was known then, was a 10 page screenplay. I read it and saw some potential to expand, so I asked for the liberty to do so, and it went from there. I immediately turned it into literary fiction, which I often do as a starting point for my own scripts.
Do you remember the first short story that you ever wrote?
It was a book about my family going to beach. I wrote and illustrated it. It was a project set by my wonderful grade prep teacher. I was 6.
What is your personal favourite from your own story collection?
I don’t think I have a favourite, yet. There is a story waiting to be told that is my favourite to slip into. Mostly I like reading short passages from my work and wonder who I stole the lines from because they can’t possibly be mine.
What is your biggest source of inspiration as an author?
As an author, it is the idealistic belief that story is the fundamental human construct. We are storytelling creatures first and foremost, and the engagement in storytelling is both the most basic, yet the most complex, of human interactions.
What is the major theme of your work?
It varies from work to work, but as for The Jackdaw the major theme was about the cost of circumventing the natural order of things. This was in reaction to the global financial crisis of 2009, but also throughout history. Fables are a form that can guide us through morality, thus I choose that form to posit the theme within.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
A pre-eminently difficult question to answer. There are authors I analyse for plot, those I appraise to for prose, and those I yearn for because of their poetry. I will keep the list to only a few recent examples: Haruki Murakami’s minimalist but powerful prose reminds me that few words say more than many. Cormac McCarthy’s plotting is a lesson that character comes from action, action from ethic, and ethic from theme. And Douglas Adam’s joy is both clever and arresting.
That being said, I looked at both McCarthy and Stephen King for inspiration for The Jackdaw. I wanted sparse, masculine prose, with linear, focused plotting.
Do you have a tip about the writing process that you could share?
One of the best but simplest tips I was ever given: read your work aloud. Even better if you are lucky enough to have someone who you can read it to.