What: Jedidiah Ayres is his real name.
Where: St. Louis
Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.
I tore through PECKERWOOD, your small town epic from Broken River Books. What inspired you to write this story? How did you come up with the three main characters—Terry, Jimmy and Chowder?
Thanks, I’m glad somebody finally tore through it. Most folks say it took a huge guilt trip from me and a whole lot of mood-altering substances to finish it. And they never follow that up with comments about how glad they were that they stuck with it.
I actually wrote it when I failed to write the sequel. I was writing a novel that I couldn’t crack the structure of—I didn’t want to split it into two parts and I didn’t want to rely heavily on flashbacks. That novel (SHITBIRD) is about what happens in the aftermath of the events of PECKERWOOD… I realized I had to back up and write an entire other book to come before the original story I wanted to tell.
As far as the characters go—Terry is just me without a filter or functional conscience. He’s completely without the concept of responsibility or the social contract and un-interested in anything that doesn’t serve himself or immediately gratify whatever whim he’s taken with at the moment. Easily the most fun character to write and also the most unnerving. I’d step back from his point of view and think, “wow, that escalated quickly.” But I loved being able to let go with him. He has absolutely no need to justify himself.
Jimmy, on the other hand, does. He feels the weight of responsibility for the well-being of the folks he polices, but he’s also a pragmatist and engages in plenty of illegal and immoral activity in an attempt to protect and serve. When I feel guilty, I write Jimmy. He’s a moral failure like me—claiming ideals he can’t live up to. He’s of a prototype I first became interested in exploring after watching the Matthew McConaughey character, Buddy Deeds, in John Sayles’s amazing 1996 film Lonestar. Go see that film if you haven’t. You’ll thank me. I’ll wait.
Chowder is the devil Jimmy knows. He’s a lesser evil—a career criminal, but not a psychopath, not without conscience—someone Jimmy can reason with. Their relationship is symbiotic and they both seem to understand what they and their partner bring to the deal. I like too that he’s a small business man, who’s locally sourced and giving back to the community… and pretty evil. I hope there’s a nice contrast there.