Writers’ League of Texas member, Jason Hinojosa, will release his first book The Last Lawsons on April 24th. Jason will be signing books at Barnes & Noble in Dallas (Preston Royal Shopping Center) on May 19th from 2-4PM, and at Barnes & Noble in Austin (Arboretum) on June 16th from 2-4PM.
Jason wrote a guest blog for us, to describe the process of creation for The Last Lawsons. Enjoy, and be sure to stop by his book signing and support a fellow WLTer!
The Last Lawsons, by Jason Hinojosa
I started writing The Last Lawsons about a month before I left for Calcutta. I was back in Dallas, and relying, as more than a few fledgling writers do, on familial charity to sustain me. I was living with my brother. In the guest room. I’d just left my comfortable home in Hong Kong – and my comfortable job along with it – and was discovering for the first time the pleasures and pains of purposeful professional independence. Which is to say, of unemployment.
I’d already learned a little about the writing process. I’d finished a few short pieces, and had been teaching creative writing at an international high school in Hong Kong. In that way, I was learning how to be a writer myself. But it wasn’t until I left the classroom and the security of steady pay that I began the feel the urgency of a writer’s life. The pleasures and the pains.
I remember being about half way through the first part of The Last Lawsons on January 1st, 2010. That was the day I left for India. I was hungover, emotional, and tired. And I didn’t know it then, not exactly, but I was about to give myself the best gift a writer can ever give or receive, and which no one else can give him: the time and space to write.
To say that Calcutta was a place free from distractions is plainly false. It’s a distracting city. It’s noisy and busy and dirty and noisy. And I was volunteering at one of Mother Teresa’s homes for the dying, which was paradoxically as sustaining as it was exhausting. I was working only in the mornings though, and in the hot afternoons, for the first time in my life, I devoted myself to writing. That was the irony of India: that in being so externally demanding and engaging, at the same time it allowed and encouraged me to look within.
During that time, certain internal echoes started to grow loud in my head. Of its own accord, my mind started making sense of old confusions, and bringing back to light some of the things I’d long ago stopped pondering. Following the suggestions in Rilke’s Letters, I began “to walk inside [my]self and meet no one for hours”, and to “think… of the world that [I] carry inside [me].”
By doing that, I rediscovered the dark happenings of my childhood like familiar fossils; I lifted and turned over old injuries and fears and doubts, doing what I could to remember well and build up the fleshy lives of my characters using the skeletal outlines of my own past.
It worked, too. The main characters in The Last Lawsons – Ed, Josephine, and Althea – experience shame, grief, and horrific death in ways that I hope I never experience. I didn’t write an autobiography, but I have felt their same isolation and longing; thus, these characters became as real to me as my own memories.
And so it was a hard book to write. It was emotional and painful to translate my experiences to my fiction. And yet, as is sometimes the case with combinations of emotion and pain, it was ultimately freeing.
The result is a personal, visceral, honest book.
People ask me sometimes what The Last Lawsons is about, and I usually say the same thing: it’s about a family dealing with trauma. But of course it’s about more than that. It’s about the ways we tell stories, the stories we choose to tell, and the power of that telling. It’s about finally finding the time and space to say what needs to be said, in whatever perfect or broken or perfect way we get to say it.
– Jason Hinojosa
**Are you about to release a new book? A WLT member? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, to inquire about a guest blog spot!