Interviewed by Isabelle Bleecker
What motivated you to write this work?
I write to explore and resolve.
From 1991-1995, I was Director of Environment for Kansas. It was a fascinating and challenging job, which led me to all corners of the state and engagement with many kinds of people. It was important to me, then and now, to think about them in their fullness: their decency and bigotry, their hopes and pressures. I wanted to explore, to breathe intimacy and life into the tiny villages that most people experience only when looking down from thirty-thousand feet.
I suppose a part of the human condition is being at odds with oneself, even uncomfortable in one’s own skin. My early life was rather tumultuous, my later life both enriched and complicated by ethical dilemmas. The process of writing about Sheriff Billy Spire and Senator Owen Middleton allowed me to clarify my understanding about who we are, what we do, and pathways that lead to reconciliation or regret.
Did anything surprise you about it as you worked?
Stephen King suggests that writers should place interesting characters in interesting situations, then see what they do. I was, and still am, surprised at how much it delighted me to spend time every day with the people of the novel. They never failed to amaze me with their humanity, vanity, resourcefulness, and corruption. Somehow, they demanded that I do my best to tell the truth about them. That I dig deeper into myself for understanding and depth. It was a very gratifying process.
Who are the writers who inspire you?
My reading is eclectic and undisciplined. Major jags have included Isaac Bashevis Singer, Louise Erdrich, Ann Beattie, Dashiell Hammett, Truman Capote, and Flannery O’Connor. I consider Robert Caro a god and E.L.Doctorow a masterful craftsman. Two recent books that just killed me are Lincoln at the Bardo and How to Breathe Under Water.
Is there anything else about you as a writer it would be helpful for me to know?
My wife and I live most of the year in Lawrence, Kansas a few blocks west of the KU campus. We spend our summers in the small mountain town of Creede, Colorado on a two-and-half acre property a couple of hundred yards from the Rio Grande river.
When not writing, I am very active in the community, especially in the areas of history and culture. Beyond that, I can most often be found walking our dogs, riding my motorcycle, playing the ukulele, or staring at a chessboard.
My wife, Carol, is a retired attorney and nationally-known quilt artist/author.
Charles Forrest Jones
Charles Forrest Jones lives with his wife and dogs in Lawrence, Kansas and Creede, Colorado. He has a BS in Biology from Kansas University, an MPA from Harvard University’s Kennedy School, and spent the majority of his professional life in public service. From 2003 to 2014, he served as Director of the Kansas University Public Management Center and taught MPA ethics and administration. Each of his academic courses included at least one reading to inspire creativity -- such as The Glass Castle or On Writing -- for public policy is rooted in the human condition. There is a place for the articulate, compelling, even beautiful.
Represented by Isabelle Bleecker
of Nordlyset Literary Agency