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I write about death every day: An emo interview with J. A. Tyler.

January 11, 2012 \am\31 9:58 am

J. A. Tyler is the author of A Man of Glass & All the Ways We Have Failed (Fugue State Press), A Shiny, Unused Heart (Black Coffee Press), and Girl With Oars & Man Dying (Aqueous Books). His work has appeared with Black Warrior Review, Caketrain, Cream City Review, Diagram, New York Tyrant, and others. For more info, visit:

I googled a teenage-years friend and found his mugshot online and I have been thinking about childhood and feeling emo, nostalgic, and ever so slightly hopeless. I have internet known the tireless, prolific author, editor and independent publisher, J. A. Tyler, since he published a thing from me (no doubt a fluke) via his starlit press, Mud Luscious, but I felt curious about him as teen and as human that expresses that human via words. Hence the questions, and his melodious answers, below.

What did teenage J. A. Tyler look like and how did he see himself in relation to the world?

Teenage J. A. Tyler was mostly like the adult version of J. A. Tyler, though a slight less confident, a bit lighter, less hairy, and certainly far less well-read. Teenage J. A. Tyler also was not a writer, and so the angst that comes out now on my pages was corked up in him, and so he was moody and brooding, much more ill-defined and sporadic. Adult J. A. Tyler is definitely more fun to be around, and happily less prone to teeny-tantrums.

I feel like if we did one of those word clouds of all your writing, that the world girl would become Godzilla and eat Japan. Who is this girl that preoccupies you so?

A great question, but in fact, I don’t know. Sometimes she is a girl I loved once long ago. Sometimes she is my wife. Sometimes she is my daughter. And sometimes she is all of that plus my grandmother and my mother and my friends and women I see on the street. There is just something so stunning about a girl, the word itself: it is innocence and yet, not. ‘girl’ means everything and the in-between, so when I sit to write, she appears, and takes her form, and all I do is try not to crush her state of being as I find the words she wants. I write wide open, and ‘girl’ rushes almost always out.

Describe an embarrassing life moment that shaped you, or like, informs the way you deal today:

Oddly perhaps, embarrassing moments don’t shape me much. I avoid them, as we all do, but when they happen I dig and bury, and then they are gone. Instead, what has most informed my writing over the past years has been death and the idea of dying. My family grows older each year, I grow older each year, and everything and everyone around me does too. You know this, we all do, but it is a focal point for me as I see it not as a cycle but as an end, and it frightens me more than anything else. I write about death every day, in one way or another, though obviously no matter / manner of writing will ever stop that trudge towards ending – and the sadness of that realization is what molds each word, even when I don’t want it to.

I like the ideas of a girl rushing out and of death and endings. I find that all people, and therefore all writers, have their themes, the preoccupations we keep coming back to, that keep rushing out from us. What are some big things that continue returning in your writing as well as your life, in addition to, or as complements, to the ideas ‘girl’ and ‘death’?

There are the woods, the idea of a forest and trees and leaves and branches. There is always weather – sun, rain, snow, wind – as well as the sun and moon and stars. There tends to be water as well, at least rivers and sometimes lakes, occasionally an ocean. I live in a state full of this kind of nature, and I grew up in it – my back door doesn’t open to the woods but I write watching trees and I travel to places to fish and camp, so these prevail in my subconscious as well as my waking life. These are also, all of them, cyclical elements, which means that even when I’m not writing about death (birth / dying), I’m writing about things that cycle, that evolve but only around to the next cycle. Girl is this way too always the moniker of birth and death, youth and age, innocence and the loss of innocence – always a cycle that I am not writing within, but attempting to write out.

When I can’t find the way to write something, I often find I’m hiding from the idea behind that something, mostly because it hurts just to think about. Can you relate to that? For example, death is too scary for most of us to think about daily. How do you stay with thoughts of death long enough to tease them out into a story, without becoming depressed?

I can absolutely relate to that. What is odd is that while I can’t think about death for more than a few minutes at a time (otherwise I start to panic) and I won’t talk about death with anyone (I simply can’t), I can write about it for hours on end. There is pain in the themes we return to, but there is catharsis there too. I believe what I’m hiding from is death, and in all actuality, I hide from it by writing about it – my words soak as I do, in death’s unforgiving and absolute wrath.

What do you think about the word HOPE?

Eerily, the only thing in life that is hopeless, is the actuality of death.

One Comment
  1. January 12, 2012 \am\31 2:19 am 2:19 am

    I loved this. Thanks!

    Yours Joblessly,
    The Jobless Ideator

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