Such a long, lovely parade of authors have come to the Made It Moments forum that to my sorrow, I can’t always have read their work. And that’s OK. I want this place to reflect a wide range of reading tastes and picks, not just my own. But today it happens that I have read the work of our guest, Grant Jerkins. And while there’s nothing “long” or “lovely” about either The Ninth Step or A Very Simple Crime–both are stark, spare novels that will not only stay with you, but become a part of you–the level of power in Grant’s writing makes them worth reading, whatever genre and type of book you tend to. Read on, and I think you will see what I mean. Oh, and then listen to this song by Toby Keith. It’s the perfect counterpoint for Grant’s Moment.
When Jenny first asked if I had any interest in contributing to her Made It Moments series, I, like many of the other writers I’ve seen featured here, was resistant. The whole “I made it” thing. It’s a bit odious. Self-congratulatory in the worst possible way. “Look at me, common people, I made it. And you, well, you remain common. Bask in my greatness. I will allow it.”
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m as a big a whore as the next writer (and, trust me, the next writer is a pretty big whore). I want the exposure. Crave it. I’m all about me. In fact, let’s talk about me for a minute. Check me out on my website. Read my blog—it’s all about me. Like me on Facebook. Follow me on twitter. Pin me (like Christ on the cross) on Pinterest. Join me on LinkedIn. Add me to your Google+ circle. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me.
I’m sorry, what were we talking about? It doesn’t matter. For now, I want to talk about me. Just for a bit. My writing. My career. My made it moment. Because, make no mistake, I have made it. Big time.
Of all the fabulous things that have happened to me me me me me me me me, it is hard to pin down (stab me on Pinterest!) just one moment as the defining event. But, if forced, I do have to acknowledge that one particular moment does stand out. And I can tell you this; it’s been no bed of roses, no pleasure cruise…
I’m finished with the snark. No more snark. It’s as odious as any of it. The truth of the matter is that I actually do have a made it moment, and I don’t want to admit it. A moment when I felt I had arrived. That my dream had come true. But I just don’t want to share it. It’s too personal.
Okay, this is real.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve gotten most of my books used. It was the only way I could afford them. Used bookstores, yard sales, flea markets, thrift stores. I discovered a lot of great writers that way. On the cheap. These second-hand stores are like time machines. What was old is new again. How can you not love that? Yes, you have to put up with the occasional squashed bug in your books. Silverfish damage. Various body fluids that were expelled from various body openings having found their way to the absorbent pages. Dust jackets sporting odd leprotic lesions. And the atmosphere in which you browse is often not conducive to scholarly shopping. Sometimes you have to breathe in the exceedingly unpleasant odor of the used shoes racked on the next aisle over. (The disinfectant they spray them with never quite masks the foot odor, does it?)
But let’s get back to me.
If I close my eyes, I can still picture the kid me contemplating the possibilities in all those literary lepers. Those born again books. My fervor in resurrecting them akin to that of a Pentecostal preacher. I have a passion for books. I will always have a passion for books. But I don’t think I will ever love books the way I did back then. It’s just not possible. The hunt for them. The reading of them. The resurrecting of them. And they of me.
About six months after my first novel came out, I was pawing through the broken, beat, and scarred cast-offs—the books that had been abandoned by their previous owners, the books that nobody loved enough to continue to shelter them in their home—in my local Goodwill, and I saw the distinctive red and white spine of A Very Simple Crime. And my name in black on that spine. Me. My book.
Over the preceding year, as the novel was conveyed through the publishing machinery, I’d seen the cover copy, the cover art jpegs, and the copy-edited manuscript. I’d held the advanced reader’s copy, corrected the page proofs, and cut through the packing tape on my carton of author copies. But all of that had been oddly anticlimactic for me. It rang hollow somehow. I don’t know why.
But this, seeing the book jammed thoughtlessly on a thrift store shelf, the cover soiled, the corners bumped, and the pages well-thumbed—dog eared even—this excited me. I’d visited the book in captivity, in retail stores, but this was the first copy I’d ever observed in the wild. And it made me feel like I’d made it.
I took the copy off the shelf, glanced around to make sure no one was watching me. And I inscribed it.
I put the book back on the shelf. But in my mind, in my imagination, it wasn’t just a dingy shelf in a thrift store that smelled of Lysol, black leather wing tips, and open toed sandals. No, these are places of healing. Where the laying on of hands will work miracles.
And most importantly, these places really are time machines. I was sending the book back in time.
To the kid me.
Look what you did. You made it.
Grant Jerkins‘s first novel, A Very Simple Crime, has been optioned for film by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Nicholas Kazan (At Close Range, Reversal of Fortune,) with Barbet Schroeder (Barfly, Single White Female) attached to direct. The Ninth Step, about what happens when an alcoholic struggles to recover and remember her crime, has recently been released by Berkley.
Grant lives with his wife and son in the Atlanta area where he has worked for fifteen years advocating for adults with developmental disabilities.