Carry Each his Burden. Interview with James Goertel

Carry Each his Burden. Interview with James Goertel
Carry each his burden, by James Goertel

Carry each his burden, by James Goertel

Yesterday, the author Martin Cid interviewed the author James Goertel, about his book ‘Carry Each his Burden’. A deep interview about writing, creativity, challenges and literature.

Martin Cid: Well, here we are with James Goertel, the author of Carry Each his Burden. First of all, we would like to congratulate you for this book. Of course, we won’t reveal the plot of the book but… why this book? Why did you write stories collection?

James Goertel: Thank you and thank you to Yareah. I had been writing for years professionally for the media. I had always dabbled in my own more personal writing. I started with poetry in my 20’s and then moved onto screenplays. I had always tried to let the process be a natural one. These stories were an outgrowth of that process of not forcing the work.


M.C: And why precisely the title Carry Each Burden?

J.G: I wrote the title story first and by the time the other stories were complete the title seemed to capture the overall theme of the collection. In each story, the characters carry some burden – emotional and otherwise – and the journey of each story is how these characters cope with their particular burdens. It felt like a very universal theme to me.

M.C: When I write a new book I try to discover something new, something special and unique for the book I am writing. What is the special thing in Carrie Each his Burden? What did you feel when you was writing it?

J.G: I felt I was discovering something about my own writing. I was very comfortable with the screenplay format and the short story format was something brand new to me. It was a challenge, but when I finished the title story, I knew that my years writing screenplays had informed my short story style with a cinematic quality. Life to me is a movie. We play out scenes in our own lives everyday and I wanted to capture that feel. I hope I did. When I write anything there is always the excitement of, “What will happen next?” I like to let the characters talk to me, tell me what they are going to do… even if I’m thinking, “Oh please, don’t do that.” I like the feeling that the writing is coming from an organic place. I try to leave myself behind and let the characters do what they must do.

M.C:  I must confess I wrote years ago some screenplays too before the novels. I see many differences but, as you said, there are similar things between screenplays and books. Can you imagine Carry Each Burden as a movie?

J.G: In the overall collection, Carry Each His Burden, I think the final story, Almost Blue, would make and interesting little film. It’s told completely from numerous first person accounts of a reclusive artist. The different characters impressions, perspectives, and opinions vary greatly and the picture that is painted of Roman, the artist, is fascinating and someone blurred, like a Monet work. You have to look closely to see the real portrait. But we are a composite of those people we have known and those who have touched our lives. The film quality of the story is almost documentary. And there is also a mystery that must be solved. In the movie the main character would not be Roman, but would be his daughter or the detective. They are both searching for something.

M.C:  You’ve written two poem books before Carry Each his Burden. What differences did you find between writing prose and poetry? What do you prefer?

J.G: I like to think that the poems are little stories. What I find is that the poetry influences the prose writing. I am writing my debut novel at the moment as well as working on a new poetry collection and I find that in doing so my descriptive sensibility for the fiction is enhanced. I’m not above being a bit poetic when setting a scene for either short stories or for this novel.

M.C: I had this question prepared for later, but… can you advance us anything about this new novel?

J.G: The novel is a piece of historical fiction and it takes place in North Dakota – where I was born and where most of my family is from. It’s called, Let the Power Fall and deals with power struggles both personal and in our attempt to harness the natural power of this world. I had always wanted to set something in this location and after the short stories the idea for the actual story came to me and fit the locale. There is a lot of research that is going into it, but I’m getting to discover a bit about where I come from which is a bonus I didn’t expect.


by James Goertel

by James Goertel

M.C: Let’s talk about James Goertel as author. Do you think your books can be included in a sort of literary movement?

J.G: Movement? Hmmm. I don’t know about movement. I think when you read interviews with, say, famous authors who were supposedly part of one group or movement, they often say they didn’t feel a part of it. The media and culture like to group things into convenient packages, but someone like Burroughs couldn’t have been more different than Kerouac in terms of their writing styles. Yet, they were both, according to history, authors from the Beat movement. If I am a part of anything, it is the community of writers, publishers, and editors I have met through Facebook. The generosity of spirit among these folks has been eye-opening and I am happy and humbled to be a part of that.


M.C: I agree with you, James. Talking about it… if you might choose an author as an influencer on you. Who would you choose? We can accept even two!

J.G: I’m a troublemaker, so you’re going to get three! James Dickey, Jim Harrison, and Charles Bukowski… all poets and novelists. I think Dickey’s “Deliverance” is one of the most powerful and clean pieces of fiction in the American literary canon. I hold that up as a benchmark to reach for in terms of my own fiction. Jim Harrison is a national treasure in my opinion. I just finished his collected poems, “Shape of the Journey” and it was so devastatingly good that I am still trying to get my head around it. Bukowski taught me not what poetry was, but what it could be. His first novel, written when he was in his early 50’s, “Post Office” taught me that simple sentences are the most powerful and that writing them is not an easy task. I use his clean, short sentences as barometer for my own. can I say what I am trying to say with less words, not more. So, those three are it for me. I might add that Joan Didion’s writing is also an influence – for truth and power. It is unparalleled in many ways.


M.C: When I was preparing this interview… well, don’t scare, please but… I investigate you and I find previews photos and I discovered marvelous landscapes and shadows and mist. It’s similar like a dream, like the light sleep before you wake up. Do you think this particular landscape had special influence in your stories?

J.G: Absolutely. I live on the shores of Lake Erie in Western New York. I don’t think it is a coincidence that after moving here a year and a half ago that I began writing my stories. The landscape is a huge influence on both my fiction and my poetry.


M.C: Some writers use their own lives to recreate their universes… did you use your experiences for Carry Each his Burden?

J.G: I think all of my characters have something of me in them and I have something of them in me. That said they are their own people – I am not King in my story Animal Kingdom, but the universal qualities that make us human – our love, anger, sympathy, empathy, dreams, desires – are in my characters and in me. Their burdens are easy to relate to our own, even if we are not addicted to methamphetamine as King is, we understand the power addiction has over all of us – whether it is to chocolate, coffee, wine, women, or song! My hope is that my readers see something of themselves in my characters.


M.C: Well, James. I have a real difficult question for you but I trust on you. Try to imagine a potential reader of your books. What he or she would discover in your books? What’s your difference between you and others story-tellers?

J.G: I think what I try to do is tell a story – the language of the story is secondary. We are our stories. The readers have stories they tell everyday – whether that is at work,out at a bar, at home with their loved ones, or at home with their enemies! We all innately understand what makes a story work when we are telling it. The generous feedback I have gotten from my readers to date is that they could relate to the characters, even when they were drug addicts, pedophiles, or murderers. What I hope the readers get is the humanity that is in all of us – whatever our condition or outward appearance, no matter our circumstance. I try to put this ‘humanity’ into all my characters and it seems to be translating. Both men and women are enjoying the collection and the pleases me more than anything else. To answer your other question, we are all different as writers. There is no way to measure the differences that really matters or tells us something. Two people read the same book – one loves it, one hates it. There is no rhyme or reason. We bring ourselves to the books we read – whether we are a good fit is up in the air until the final page is turned. But, thank goodness we are all different as writers – there is something for everyone that way. The act of reading is what matters most.


James Goertel

James Goertel

M.C: When did you discover your writing passion?

J.G: I discovered The Beatles when i was about 11 tears old and it changed my world. The first thing I did, even before taking guitar lessons, was to try and write the lyrics for a song. I was smitten by their words. I think the song was called ‘Look around’ – it had no music! I always enjoyed writing in school, but have no formal training in it beyond high school. I studied film in college. I have always written – that’s all I can say. If you look at the road maps in my car you will see that they are all written on by me – ideas I have while I’m driving. Yes! I write while I’m driving which is unsafe at any speed so, shhhhhh, don’t say anything, and let me pass if I try to pick you up hitchhiking!


M.C: Thanks James. We would like to congratulate you again. We hope to see you soon celebrating your new novel. All the best!

J.G: Thank you, Martin, and my best to Isabel. I am honored to be a part of Yareah.

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Born in North Dakota, James Goertel spent twenty years working in television for ABC, NBC, and ESPN, among many others in the U.S. He currently teaches writing at Penn State. Carry Each His Burden (2011) was his fiction debut. Each Year an Anthem (2012) was his poetry debut. With No Need for a Name (2012) and Self Portrait (2013) are his follow-up collections. His debut novel Let the Power Fall will be published in 2014.

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