We have an international writer this time. Pleased to meet Jason R. Goetz, author of Essays on the Classics!
Hi Jason, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I’m in my mid-twenties, and come from a family of very talented people, ranging from a former President of MGM and creator of the ”Theyyyyyyyyyyyyy’re Great” commercial campaign (for Frosted Flakes) to a judge, the founder of the first internet law school, and so on. I learned a lot from them, and with my own range of interests, including chess, basketball, all forms of music and movies, I’ve been blessed to have a wide range of experiences, which has really helped me sort through the Great Books and make sense of them.
What were you like at school?
I was always very intelligent and took advanced classes, but had a lot of conflicts with both other students and my teachers, which often boiled over into conflicts with administrators. At first I thought I was the problem, which I heard so much from everyone else, but once I started studying the Great Books I realized that virtually all
of the authors of them had very similar problems. A large reason for this is that the schools themselves are the biggest bullies: and with someone of an extraordinary degree of intelligence, they cannot exercise the kind of control that they really want. I didn’t realize this until I got to college, and on multiple campuses saw the administrations trying to cover up sexually-oriented crimes and using bullying tactics to do so. It was really an eye-opener and was part of the reason I chastised them in The Bubble Boys, my first book.
Were you good at English?
I was not a great English student in middle school and early on in high school, I didn’t see the value of it and was more focused on math, which was a bigger interest for me and seemed at the time to be my great talent; the first time anyone commented on my writing ability, it was a history teacher when I was a sophomore. But when I hit my junior year of high school I was writing spectacular term papers, and I hit a brick wall the same year with Multi-Variable Calculus, and after that I was a great English student.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
My goal is to have 1000+ consistent readers for the Essays on the Classics! series, which I’m releasing every 7 weeks, and which are each about 100 pages. Between that and my Great Books program I want to change the thought process of the average mind, which I feel is being shorted by a school system and which I can see doing tremendous damage to the social system in which we live because that is reliant on an educated populace. The mind is a high-powered engine and the school system in the United States is actively trying to stifle its power. We live in such a unique age, with so much access to information that we’ve never had before—why let this go to waste?
Which writers inspire you?
I’m not so sure authors inspire me so much as their books, but if I had to list authors, of the ones for which I have names, my top ten are probably Herodotus, Aristotle, Tacitus, Ammianus Marcellinus, John Locke, Edward Gibbon, Alexander Hamilton, John C. Calhoun, George Orwell, and Ernest Hemingway.
Of the anonymous ones, the one whom we call Homer (author of The Iliad and The Odyssey), the author of The Song of Roland, and the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
So, what have you written?
The Bubble Boys: How Mistaken Educational Ideals and Practices are Causing a Warped Social Fabric (winner of the 2011 Readers Favorite Bronze Award)
The Decline of the Epic?
Essays on the Classics! (Volumes 1 and 2 are out, 3 will be out on January 20th)
And my individual essays are on sale for Kindles on Amazon through Kindle Direct Publishing.
Where can we buy or see them?
All of them can be bought on Amazon and also on CreateSpace:
www.createspace.com/3500396 and http://www.amazon.com/The-Bubble-Boys-Educational-Practices/dp/1456342665/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1389485291&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Bubble+Boys+Goetz
www.createspace.com/4419240 and http://www.amazon.com/The-Decline-Epic-Jason-Goetz/dp/1492268003/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1389485331&sr=8-1&keywords=the+decline+of+the+epic%3F
www.createspace.com/4477337 and http://www.amazon.com/Essays-Classics-Great-Revival-Volume/dp/1492950491/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1389485353&sr=8-1&keywords=essays+on+the+classics+goetz
www.createspace.com/4527850 and http://www.amazon.com/Essays-Classics-Great-Revival-Volume/dp/1493781537/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1389485356&sr=8-2&keywords=essays+on+the+classics+goetz
You can also buy the books as ebooks for a slightly discounted rate by contacting me through my blog (http://essaysontheclassics.wordpress.com/) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
What are you working on at the minute?
My fourth volume of the Essays on the Classics! series, which covers ideas that have shaped American history from 1776 to 1860. This book should be useful to every student in American history classes across the country.
How much research do you do?
I do a lot of research. It’s really important to me to make sure my facts are correct. Every now and again I still manage to screw something up, but I value my work first and foremost for its honesty and integrity—writers who don’t do research shouldn’t be writing at all.
Why do you write?
I write because I enjoy it, I have a passion for it, and it’s something I’m really good at. Lord knows, I haven’t received much of a response to my books, and I’ve dealt with a lot of really disrespectful behavior from friends and family regarding them—but I keep doing it, and will keep doing it so long as I am able to.
Do you write full-time or part-time?
I’m a part-time writer, and a full-time thinker. I usually spend a few minutes on Fridays to churn out the essays, and then modify them through the course of the week. If I’m inspired I get to it right away, because if I forget to do so then I run the risk of forgetting the burst of inspiration, even with my great memory.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
The structure of my writing has changed as I’ve grown more sophisticated as a thinker, and my ability to say things clearly has let me be much more creative, since I don’t have to worry about whether the reader understands my language. I couldn’t have written my new essay about the application of the Fabian Strategy to chess until very recently; I just didn’t have the tools in my box to do it.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Here’s the scary thing about me: if I really set myself to it, I average a book every two months. The Decline of the Epic? took me longer, around ten months, but I spend eight of those not writing at all—the actual writing time was still around two months. I don’t believe that books should take years to produce, unless they are exhaustive, but I also have done much of my research over the course of several years prior to even picking up a pen, so the words come out in a flurry when they’re ready.
Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
Wait until it passes. Patience is one of the many prerequisites to successful writing.
Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors.
I’ve read probably 1000 books over the last five years: my full reading list can be found at http://greatbooksdude.wordpress.com/my-complete-reading-list/
For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
I very much prefer hard copies and have my own library of over 1000 books, but because some of the third- and fourth-tier classics aren’t easy to obtain in print I often have to settle for ebooks. But I hate sitting in front of a computer screen and reading like that.
What book/s are you reading at present?
I am finishing Jefferson Davis’ The Fall of the Confederate Government, and also Josephus’ The Jewish War, but have about twelve others open and am sorting my way through those as well. I’ll be teaching Veblen’s The Vested Interests and the Common Man next week so I’m reading that as well.
Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?
I proofread my own books, sometimes more successfully than others. The big problem for me is that even my elderly friends—and those at Lennie’s deli in West LA can attest to the fact that I have several 70+ year old friends who are incredibly literate and well-educated—don’t have the range or scope of knowledge that I have.
Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.
This is another place where my creative instincts have developed over time. The cover for The Bubble Boys was something I suggested to the professionals at CreateSpace and they put it in; the title is supposed to convey both the sense of an economic bubble surrounding college degrees and that of the proverbial laboratory behavior that is molding the educations we receive. The covers for the Essays on the Classics! series were something I had to really think about, and then I suggested the idea to my friend and fellow author, Michael Bowler, who implemented it finely.
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
I would have thought this prior to my experiences as an author. I don’t think so now—but I also am jaded and have come to believe that most people just want free stuff, and books without substance. It’s really a shame.
Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
I think giving books away for free can be helpful, but I advise any new author to ask for a review in return and also to get contact info for the people to whom he gives it. Books are valuable, and you need to send the message to your audience that you are confident of that. At the same time, what I’ve found is that a lot of people will take the one book for free, and never follow up to buy future books—spoiled brats!
What is your favourite book and why?
My favorite book is The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon. It’s long—around 4000 pages in full—but the scope of it is just incredible, and Gibbon’s writing style is finely cultivated. It covers the Empire from 180 AD (the height of the Western Roman Empire) to the early 1500s (the fall of the East was in 1453 and Gibbon goes slightly beyond that to show how the ruins of the West were exacerbated during the Renaissance), including wars on the Northern, Western, Eastern, and Southern fronts of the Empire, lives of all the major Emperors, their wives and generals, architectural history, city layouts, legal history, ecclesiastical history, the rise of Islam, the decline of substantial poetry—it is just the most incredible book I’ve ever read, and the one I most long to teach to a class.
What is your favourite quote?
“The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the Republic.”–Tacitus
What is your favourite film and why?
Eight Men Out. I love baseball, and this true story about the rigged 1919 World Series captures one of the most complex storylines in the game’s history. I’m not sure I can excuse the players, but I can sympathize with their plight at the hands of a skinflint owner. What a dream it would be to act in that movie—to dress up and impersonate one of the old-time players! Charlie Sheen was luckier to get that than to bang pornstars.
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Possibly Gibbon, definitely Alexander Hamilton, and also Francis Bacon. These are men of the highest degree of substance and grace, and with whose minds I find a deep sympathy and sense of common ground. They might, of course, look at me and laugh their brains out.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
The Song of Roland. I wouldn’t want to spend my life writing something like Gibbon, but this short masterpiece is such a critical juggernaut, and has such a range of emotions and ideas that it excites the deepest admiration in the mind of the reader. Who is to say whether Guenelun is really wrong, and if he is really treated equitably? How does the Christian sense of justice really differ from the Muslim one, or do they differ at all?
Where do you see publishing going in the future?
There will always be a role for publishers, but they are in deep trouble because they refuse to publish works of intellectual substance. The result is that the success of books is hit or miss, and reading in general is declining significantly. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy if ever there was one!
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Keep your eyes open, read my first few books, and check my blogs, http://essaysontheclassics.wordpress.com/ and http://greatbooksdude.wordpress.com. I post reviews of my books and information about publication dates on the first, and on the second I post my own reviews of other books (mostly but not always classic works) and updates on the classes I teach. Every kid should be doing one or the other, or both.
Lnkedin: Jason Goetz
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Mr-Jason-R-Goetz/e/B00AFR9CR0/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_6?qid=1389487665&sr=8-6
Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.