J. D. Mader is a biker, angler, keen blogger and agony aunt . His first novel Joe Café was published last year, and I reviewed it here. It is a great piece of Noir writing, full of low lifes and plot twists. His second novel The Biker has now been published. It is a kind of Western and a fast paced, action packed, highly entertaining read. He met me at The Slaughterhouse where we talked about fish and governments.
To what extent do you think fishing and narrating are related?
Fishing is different for everyone. My fishing is kind of a zen, peaceful thing. I want to punch myself for saying that, but it’s true. I fish because I like to catch fish, but I also like to be near water and nature and away from people. So, I seek out small lakes and unknown streams. I don’t have any interest in sitting in a boat with a bunch of idiots around me drinking beer. I like to fish alone or with someone I love.
I like to fish because it focuses me and calms the barrage of thoughts in my brain. Same with riding my motorcycle. Same with writing. Storytelling, done right, takes you to a place where your conscious brain is no longer operating. Same with fishing. It’s all instinct and intense absorption. When I fish, I think about only fishing. When I write, I think only about writing. Sure, thoughts drift through, but they are ambient and airy and I can let them pass. This is something I struggle with normally.
And, then there is the tradition of storytelling. Anglers are, for the most part, fantastic storytellers. Lots of writers fish. And there are a lot of fisherman who are damn good writers. Both activities involve patience, passion, and persistence. And they are both things that you can never master. Similar types of people are drawn to things like that. No matter how much you fish, there is more to learn. And no matter how much you write, you can always get better. Thank god…on both counts.
Tell us about your new book The Biker.
‘The Biker’ is unlike anything I have written before. As a born and bred short story writer, long forms are hard for me. I tend to write in vignettes (a la ‘Joe Cafe’), which is cool…I like it. But ‘The Biker’ was written under unique circumstances and because of that it is much more linear. I don’t know if this makes the book less appealing or more intriguing, but fuck it. I wrote this book during NANOWRIMO. One month to write a novel. And I charged it…two thousand words a day. I edited it later, but not all that much changed. Nothing important. It came out pretty well…I was happy with it. There is an urgency to it that comes from the way it was written.
I wanted to see if I could actually write and edit a 50K word novel in a month. I didn’t want to cop out and have an outline or any of that. So, I sat down on the first day and thought, ‘well, shit, what’s this novel going to be?’ I tend to like snooty literature like an asshole, but I love Louis L’Amour. Sure, all the plots are pretty much the same. But he was great. They are like Romance Novels for men. So, I had this idea. Write a LL novel, but more literary, modern, set in San Francisco, and with motorcycles instead of horses. That was it. And the novel wrote itself as they are wont to do. It is a tribute. It also stands on its own as a novel.
It’s a kind of novel that doesn’t get written much anymore, and a lot of people have appreciated that aspect. If you like old westerns for the good reasons, you’ll like ‘The Biker’. If you like Urban Thrillers or whatever, I think it works. And I hope it works if you just like good characters and solid writing. Because, that’s ‘The Biker’. It is also the first of a series. Matt Stark will be back.
To what extent do you think a motorbike is a fish?
Motorcycles and fish actually have a lot in common. Both are sleek and fast. Fish depend on their abilities to evade larger fish, birds, snakes, etc…bikers (smart ones) consider everything on the road the enemy. Unless it is small enough to eat. Same with fish. If it is too big to eat, a fish has no interest and sees it as a threat. On a motorcycle, you try to avoid big hazards, but if it is small enough to be eaten in a sitting (chicken, raccoon, possum), you run that shit over. It’s more dangerous to try to avoid it.
Fish spook easily. So do motorcycles (well, motorcyclists). Both very vulnerable creatures who, when removed from their element, are in immediate peril. Most fish don’t have defense mechanisms per se. Evade is always the first move except for the very top of the fish food chain. Same for motorcycles. Sharks and Hells Angels are the exception to the rule, perhaps. You can’t fight a minivan. You will lose. So you try to escape it. Only when cornered do you knuckle down. If you’re smart. Both like to travel in schools for protection. And they both come in all shapes and sizes (and demeanors).
Is it true you’re planning a coup on the government?
No…well, sometimes in my mind. Actually, a coup doesn’t interest me. The Government doesn’t interest me. It would if I let it, but they all make me sick and ashamed to be a human being. It’s cowardly, but I ignore what the government does. They are all shady liars. It comes with the territory. Can you imagine a politician actually being 100% honest and forthright? They would lose. Compromise and hedging of bets is a necessity, but it sickens me. I’d much rather vote for an honest person, even if I don’t agree with everything they believe. Obama has been a big let down. I was pretty stoked on him even before he ran for president. I do like speeches. And he is good at them. But he has to play the game like everyone else. It’s dishonest.
There is too much that doesn’t make sense for me to even take the shit seriously. It’s like a bad satire. You can buy a handgun, but weed is illegal. The government gets to have a say in who you want to have sex with. Americans don’t even have socialized health care. It’s preposterous. I could never be a politician because I would make it five minutes before I screamed, “fuck you, you disingenuous bastards,” and walked out. I can’t compromise on my principals the way you have to if you want to play the game. A coup would be pointless anyway, the government is rapidly destroying itself, and I certainly don’t want to be in charge. Honestly, the only two people I can think of right now that I would actually be excited about voting for are Dan Savage or Jon Stewart. They are people who are interested and knowledgeable, but not total idiot assholes. I’m sure I could think of more, but I don’t have time to think about the government. It’s like a giant ugly monolith I try to ignore. I’m not proud of that, but that’s the way it is.
Dan thank you for a great interview.