Wednesday, May 06, 2009

An Interview with Jackson Spey

I decided to repost this, since Jackson (and Adin) will soon be reappearing.

Late last fall, I tracked down this elusive man and pulled him out of hiding for a moment. It wasn't easy, and he wasn't overly cooperative.

* * * * *

Hard to believe the wizard is a master craftsman and the master craftsman is a wizard. Actually practices magic and pulls off some stupendous stuff. I had a couple of beers before going to his woodshop just to take the edge off. And what the hell? Milwaukee is a good place to be drinking beer. I'd thought of bringing along a fifth of Jack Daniels, his drug of choice, but I know he doesn't drink when he's working. Besides, he's making a whole lot more money than I am and can well afford to buy his own booze.

I'm nervous, no denying it. This is a coup. Jackson Spey is intensely private and a bit intimidating. His sense of humor can get razory without warning. I don't know quite what to expect when I push open the door of his shop, tucked into a long, low, nondescript building in a central industrial valley.

Machinery isn't droning. When I walk in, I know why. Jackson is seated at a drafting table nearly hidden in a corner to the far right. As soon as he hears the door grind open, he stands and approaches me. The place smells like a logging site. I don't have time to examine his work, but I know it ain't cookie-cutter. This stuff is custom designed and handmade, one lathe-spin, plane-stroke, and chisel-gouge after another.

No wonder he has such phenomenal patience.

Seeing him is a shock. I've always known he's tall. Still, in person he's . . . tall. Being a shade under six-three isn't all that extraordinary, but the man's build and the way he carries himself seem to add a ruler full of extra inches. And then there's that slightly sinister facial hair. As neat as it is, it gives him a dark-lord look. The long braid is gone now. Thank God, I think, that he didn't opt for a lawyerly trim. His wavy hair, a little mussed, caresses the base of his neck.

Jackson might be flirting with middle age, but he still has presence. Even the simple black t-shirt and faded jeans contribute to it. I feel giddy as soon as I lay eyes on him.

"I was almost hoping you wouldn't show up," he says with a disarming smile that's bracketed by parallel creases. He extends a large hand toward me. Slightly roughened, it feels the way his voice sounds. His grip is firm and welcoming . . . even though, I suspect, he has an aversion to this kind of attention. Or most any attention.

"Thanks for agreeing to meet with me."

Inscrutably, he nods. The smile has shrunk but it's still there. Sitting on the stool in front of his drafting table, he rests his left arm on the surface and braces his right hand on his thigh, fingers pointing toward his crotch. His heels are hooked onto a crossbar. His legs are spread wide. The "pose" isn't intentional; it's just a comfortable position . . . I assume. But I can't help thinking of some lines from the movie This Is Spinal Tap -- Nigel pontificating about tight trousers and armadillos and fearful girls who run screaming . . .

"Alone this weekend?" I ask, treading lightly on the words.

"Mm-hm." He cocks his head into a laconic shrug. "Like most weekends. It's better than going out and getting drunk on my ass."

"Does that bother you?"

His smile resurfaces on a tilt. "That I don't go out and get drunk on my ass? Fifteen years ago it might have."

"No, I meant being alone." Why am I explaining? He knows damned well what I meant.

"I don't have a problem keeping busy."

It's a deft side-step. I almost let it pass. "Still, I suspect you wish Adin were here." What I wisely don't say is, Instead of two hundred miles away, in a cozy chalet with Celia.

He makes a throat-clearing sound, twists slightly to the left, picks a pencil off the table, taps it a five times -- three taps then two -- drops the pencil, faces forward once more. I can see that's all the answer I'm going to get. Morse Code?

His gaze drifts past me, maybe to one of his works-in-progress. Or maybe to something that can't be seen.

"How is Adin, by the way?"

"We're not joined at the hip, you know."

Just as I'm thinking, But you sure as hell would like to be, Jackson drops his head forward and gives it a little shake. His smile is different now, and it underscores a subtle eruption of pink on his cheekbones. I think I hear him whisper, "Shit."

Now I'm waiting for his eye color to start shifting. It's some wizardly little quirk. Occasionally, the natural hazel of his irises is swamped by one of its components -- smoky topaz, jade, amber. The gold, I've heard, can get pretty intense, depending on his mood.

"I think this would go smoother," he says, "if I slapped some duct tape over my mouth. Or maybe over yours. That way we could just look at each other while you make assumptions about me. Not to mention the man whose name you at least know how to spell correctly." He turns down his head to scratch an eyebrow, his head partially resting on his fingers, but his eyes are still turned up to me.

If it weren't for the two Sprecher Black Bavarians I'd poured down my gullet, I'd be indignant. And uncomfortable. Instead, I veer amenably onto neutral turf. "So . . . bike still running well?" Jackson rebuilt a 1972 Harley shovelhead chopper. It's his second lover -- not that he would put it that way.

This topic clearly pleases him, but he still seems wary. "Like a champ. Of course, it's stored for the winter now."

"Have you ever gone riding with--"

Abruptly, he groans into a chuckle. "Women." His dark brows hitch up on the word.

"I beg your pardon?"

In lieu of an explanation, he leans sideways toward his desk, yanks open a drawer, and pulls out a fat, silvery roll of tape. His eyes aren't quite hazel anymore.

* * * * *

"For most of my career, I've enjoyed following certain characters from one story to another. I say 'following' because when characters come sufficiently alive that I want to write more about them, it does feel as if I'm trailing along behind them recording their adventures rather than making them up."
~ Poppy Z. Brite

Jackson's chronicle thus far spans six books, in this order: Hoochie Coochie Man (main character), Cemetery Dancer (secondary character), Plagued (secondary), Tormented (secondary), Obsessed (main), Elevator Magic (secondary). The next installment of his saga -- and it's a big one -- is InDescent. His story is far from over. Same is true for the man whose name I at least know how to spell correctly.


Jeanne said...

Yep, you do know how to spell his name correctly! :~D
Nie interview, KZ

K. Z. Snow said...

Hi, Jeanne. I'd get my butt kicked from various directions if I didn't spell Adin's name right. ;-)

Kris said...

I've been meaning to ask... (besides all of 'em) what books would you recommend as essential reading in the lead up to "In Descent"??

K. Z. Snow said...

Funny you should ask, Kris. (Actually, how nice of you to ask.)

In terms of the heroes' relationship, the most important would be Obsessed. MB (Leah) reviewed it on her blog, and it's been reviewed elsewhere, as well -- if that makes a difference to you.

In terms of Spey's wizardry and the history of his relationship with his adversary, the go-to book would be Hoochie Coochie Man.

Vael said...

I'm going to have to hunt down the others. Don't know if they've been reviewed at Lit Nymphs, but I can still read them. Loved this interview!


K. Z. Snow said...

Welcome, Vael! What a nice surprise to see you here.

Did you read my post on the "road" that led to InDescent? In it, I mention which elements and characters in the novel appear in other books.

Vael said...


No, I didn't. I'll have to hunt that one down and read it.