My Interview with Rabbit Hole
I gave this interview in 2021 after meeting Hunter Wallace of Rabbit Hole Short Stories. Rabbit Hole gives new writers a chance to show their work and make a bit of cash through donation buttons. Hunter published my story “Gator Eye Lake” on RH in December, 2021. (Note: this story has since been removed as it will be published on Amazon in 2022.)
RH: There was a lot of complexity to Gator Eye Lake that made it feel real, like I was peering into an alternate reality. What was the process like writing it?
JMA: I think my favorite kinds of stories are ones that explore reality-adjacent worlds, and the characters have a foot in each, not knowing if they are in one place or another. I read somewhere that the setting of a story can be treated like a character. I thought this would work really well, particularly for the lake of Palm Cove. The process of writing any story comes down to editing mood words to create a certain feeling. Creating mood is something I enjoy, and I’m always glad when it works!
RH: I loved the characters in the story. Can you talk about what goes into making them so distinct and believable?
JMA: Writing good characters is a lifetime study and I’m still learning. Marshall and Sheila worked, I think, because they each had desires. Giving them a brief backstory, even though it’s a short story, also helped flesh them out. Obviously, Sheila’s backstory was minimal compared to Marshall’s, but I still gave her a longing for something she didn’t have. I think this is key to creating believable characters.
RH: Where did the idea for the story come from? Where do ideas for your stories typically come from?
JMA: My mother-in-law lived in Florida, and her yard sloped down into a small lake. One day we were walking around out there and an alligator surfaced, its snout and eye gliding through the glassy water. It was the first time I’d witnessed that in real life, and I was mesmerized, thinking about the ancientness of this reptile. I found it mysterious, and the story just spooled out from there. Ideas for stories come from everywhere, even dreams. Ideas, though, aren’t stories, and sometimes they can’t be shaped. I try them all, just in case, to see what works.
RH: What’s your favorite type of thing to write? Why so?
JMA: My favorite subject is the paranormal. I love anything spooky and atmospheric. I think I’m attracted to this type of story because I like peering into mysterious things. I don’t mind if something is unsolvable—I’m comfortable with that. I enjoy wondering about the “why” of things.
RH: How long have you been a writer?
JMA: I began writing when I was young, in kindergarten. I have a box of stories from back then. I’ve always loved books, and even made a pop-up book once when I was able to use scissors and paste things together. But I didn’t take my writing seriously until I was in my late twenties. Even then I wrote sporadically. I’m much more disciplined now than I used to be.
RH: Why do you write?
JMA: I don’t exactly know why. It’s an urge. All of a sudden I feel I need to record something on paper. I think I write to discover who I am, maybe to try and figure out how the world works. Sometimes I feel I write simply to create beauty. It depends on my mood, I guess.
RH: How much do you read? What kind of things?
JMA: I read every day. I read articles, non-fiction, novels, poetry—I read lots of poetry. Poems help me see endless ways to construct word images. Poets, I think, are the best writers. They are so creative, yet precise.
RH: Do you have any big goals for the future?
JMA: Big goals—that’s intimidating! But maybe a big goal for me would be to finish two novels next year. I want to produce more. I’d like to finish a collection of short stories, too. I guess that would be my biggest goal, to produce more work!
RH: Are you working on anything right now that we can look out for?
JMA: Without giving too much away, I’m nearly finished with a new novel featuring a young witch who falls in love with a demon. It actually started out as a sweet story, but has turned a little dark, so I’ll have to see where it ends up. With any luck it will be out next year. I also have a few more short stories waiting in the wings, one of which will be appearing within the next few months.
RH: Thank you, Jan, for taking the time to answer my questions, and thank you so much for sending in Gator Eye Lake; I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did. We’d love to see more of your work on Rabbit Hole in the future! For those reading, I encourage you to go see what else Jan is up to!
JMA: Thank you so much, Hunter. It’s such an honor to appear on your site. I wish you great success!