I sat down with Norelle Done over at Seattle Wrote blog to talk about recent happenings.

Read the full interview here


I am pleased to present a Q&A I had with Jarret Middleton, a local Seattle author and editor-in-chief and co-founder of Dark Coast Press. Thanks for participating, Jarret!

Q: Was writing always in your blood, or something you began doing later in life?
A: I always wrote, drew, painted, and played music. I was politically active in high school, caused all kinds of trouble. That led to writing political articles, essays, op-eds, that sort of thing, that started showing up in anarchist magazines, zines and pamphlets, like Northeastern Anarchist, Strike, CLAC, and Slingshot. I went to college in Montreal. Politics led to philosophy, philosophy led to fiction, or at least was a major muse.

Q: Who are you? What are you about? Do you write full time, or have a day job? Tell us about Jarret Middleton.
A: I am solitary, quiet, tall, drunk, and admire bears. Thankful to own and operate Dark Coast Press full-time with fellow publisher Aaron Talwar in Seattle, and our new imprint with Harry Kirchner, Pharos Editions, where we have contemporary authors like Jess Walter, Jonathan Evison, and Sherman Alexie select their favorite out-of-print classics and we bring them back into print. I am a freelance editor for other publishers and write the rest of the time.

Q: Was “An Dantomine Eerly” your first published work, or had you had other things published in magazines beforehand? Why was this one different?
A: I had a few other small things published, but ADE was my first novel. Before ADE, I had the slew of political work, two poetry manuscripts, one poetry chapbook, a road journal called Station Wagon Nightmares, hundreds of exercises, two dozen failed stories, and one half-written failed novel. Probably some other stuff lost, burned, or thankfully forgotten.

Q: What inspired the story?

A: An Dantomine Eerly was about the death of an Irish-American poet Dallin, as he reconciles himself with the traumatic death of his wife, Aisling. The book was a surrealist narrative that worked at parts and others not. The story came out of killing the poet in myself, looking back at the years of transitioning from reading and writing poetry, which really established some strong aesthetics and strengthened my tongue, and my natural progression into narrative prose and fiction where I feel most at home. So I killed a poet who mourned the death of his wife, who I named after a long gone Irish poetic form called the “aisling,” which means dream-vision or vision-poem.

Q: How did the publication of “An Dantomine Eerly” happen for you?
A: I wrote ADE over four years while working a lot of miserable jobs – pouring liquid silicone into diecast molds at a factory that made sleep apnea masks, underground bore drilling in New England where I’d stand in a ditch in waist-high groundwater and unscrew 80lbs drill heads, and a sleeving and tubing factory that caught on fire every week. I finished the book and was getting together with Aaron Talwar in New Jersey, who was an editor with Pearson and Wiley & Sons for the years I had been writing. He was going to help me package my query and manuscript to submit to publishers, and that conversation grew into starting an entire independent press ourselves, Dark Coast Press, in Seattle. Which we did, four years ago, and a dozen plus books later.

Q: Did you experience any particular challenges with writing the book than with your other work? How did you scale those hurdles?
A: Running a business, editing the books on our list, and helping to develop our authors has been my primary focus for over four years now. So, progressing in writing when I put other people’s books first can be tough. That’s no harder than any of my friends that teach in writing programs and universities, or have four children, or other full-time jobs. I place a lot of importance on remembering how lucky I am.

Q: When you write something, say a short story or essay, how do you go about getting it out there?
A: I submit most of my work in the same way as all the other grunts. Sometimes I write stuff that a colleague or friend that has a project will request, which I am always grateful for. For the past few months I have been far more concentrated on writing new work than submitting. Always work on page first, all the other stuff will still be there when you’re ready.

Q: What triggers or inspires your essays and fiction?

A: I guess a better question there would be, why do you write? I mentioned philosophy as a muse. The writers I first fell in love with were of that stripe – Henry Miller, Marguerite Duras, John Hawkes, Borges, Calvino, Joyce and Beckett. When I gravitated away from any social or practical concern and just concentrated on how I felt (which was usually awful) and really focused on how I lived, philosophy was the art that helped me develop my thoughts. So I write for those issues in my self and in my characters that are usually addressed in philosophical writing. What we can consider veritable in ourself and what, if anything, we can possibly recover from experience and memory. Whether or not evil exists. Emboldening myself through knowledge and thinking and quietude and really just being concerned with getting all the power-mad rhetoric, maniacal, manipulative shit and destructive influences out of my life so I can be healthy and humiliated in my private graces.

Q: Can you share about your experience with The Novel Live! event, and the subsequent book? What was that like for you?

A: The Novel: Live! was a lot of fun. Garth Stein and Jennie Shortridge did a great job steering the crazily-conceived ship of having 36 authors write a serial novel live in front of an audience. They put on a Wednesday night, late-night. Garth auctioned my book with a bottle of Jameson and a Pogues album. Everybody was drunk. I wrote for two hours and in the last five minutes the computer went haywire and started rapidly deleting what I had written. I think I broke it. I had to go home and try to re-write it so the next writer could start at 10 AM the next morning.

Q: Are other books in the works for you? Or are you more of a shorter form writer?
A: I am more than halfway through a new novel called Darkansas. It’s a murder myth about two twin brothers who return home to their father’s homestead in the Ozarks for one brother’s wedding. While home, the brother not getting married uncovers a long-hidden secret about his family: that every generation of men since the end of the Civil War have been twins, and in each generation one of the twins ends up murdering their father. Some new stories in the works that I love, and a novella sketch that I really want to write.

Q: Can you share some words of advice for aspiring writers?
A: Write how you want about whatever you want. Then learn some structure, learn the rules before you break them. But, of course, when you are ready, you break them. Don’t be so pompous in your youth and inspiration to think that there are ‘no good books being written anymore.’ There are dozens of books coming out every season of every year that are just incredible. Find them and read them and learn what other writers are doing.

There are so many resources available for the craft of writing that writers should take full advantage of. What there are far less resources for is the business of writing and publishing and how you can learn to make it work for you. I would suggest to any aspiring writers to go far out of their way to learn everything they can about the real way books are sold. It will help make you a better writer, and it will nourish your relationships with your future publishers, editors, sales reps, booksellers, and readers.

Write what challenges and fulfills you first. Then put what you learn about the reality of the book world into practice. That’s what it’s all about.