Arts and Culture

Westword Book Club: J.A. Kazimer on dyslexia, peeing in a bottle and writing what you know

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J.A. Kazimer
Did those experiences inform your writing at all?

Definitely. After those four years, I decided that I didn't want to be a P.I. anymore, but I want to do something in the criminal-justice field, so I went and got my degree in forensic psychology. That influences my books a lot, trying to understand why somebody would run over somebody else with a bus.

I think that's really interesting and it sets you apart as a writer, because anyone can read a lot of Raymond Chandler and try to write mysteries, but having those firsthand experiences and doing all that research probably helps. You've got knowledge that people can't make up.

I'd like to think so, but I also have my doubts. What do you think of the advice "write what you know?"

I think it can be helpful advice, but yeah, it's not like H.G. Wells had any first-hand experience with time travel. But you've had pretty interesting experiences, so that advice is more valid for someone like you, whereas some nineteen-year-old kid who's never done anything will follow that advice to the end of a really mundane story.

Exactly. I wonder if it's a hindrance, too, like if I'm missing something when I'm writing because character's behavior is dictated by what I've learned about mental illness. Questioning the authenticity of your voice ultimately makes you a better writer.

So, when did you decide that you wanted to be a writer, was it during your crime-fighting days?

No, it was afterwards. It was another book that made me want to be a writer. Have you heard of Christopher Moore?

Maybe? The book was called Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. It's the best book ever. It's one of the most hilarious books I ever read. I also just wanted to have a job that's fun.

Did your earlier struggles with dyslexia shape your future reading habits at all?

Yeah, I remember being in a remedial reading class where we would just sit and read the newspaper for four hours a day, which is pretty boring for a kid. I'm just glad someone finally gave me something to read that I liked. A pulp book. Who knows what would have happened if it had been a romance! I have gone back to read the classics, but sometimes I feel like I'm not smart enough to get into them. I recently taught at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, at Naropa in Boulder, so I brushed up on Burroughs, Ginsberg and all the Beats. I think that during the twenty years that I've been a more regular reader, I've more than made up for the time I missed out on. I have at least 500 books at home. They're the only thing I pack and move with me when have to move. J.A. Kazimer is featured in the upcoming Special Evening of Writerly Madness readings at the Boulder Bookstore at 7:30 p.m. on June 13. Information on all of her books and upcoming appearances is available on her official website.

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Byron Graham is a writer, comedian and gentleman thief from Denver. Co-host of Designated Drunkard: A Comedy Drinking Game, the deathless Lion's Lair open mic and the Mutiny Book Club podcast, Byron also writes about comedy for Westword. He cannot abide cowardice, and he's never been defeated in an open duel.
Contact: Byron Graham

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