JEFFREY KASS, Author of THE RONA DIARIES: ONE WORLD – TWO PANDEMICS
1.Tell us a bit about yourself – something that we will not find in the official author’s bio?
I love to cook gourmet feasts from all over the world. Exotic places. Places off the beaten path. Places that don’t make it to U.S. classrooms. Places like Cameroon. Azerbaijan. Sri Lanka. I prepare these feasts for my kids, then I teach them about the countries from which each meal comes. My kids love this and devour the information just as much as the delicious food.
2. Do you remember what was your first story (article, essay, or poem) about and when did you write it?
I started writing op-ed pieces and essays in college, but the first published essay opinion piece was right after I finished law school, in 1996. I submitted a piece on the Middle East and The St. Louis Post Dispatch accepted it for publication and featured it as the main op-ed guest column on its opinion page. They even added artwork for the article.
3. What is the title of your latest book and what inspired it?
The Rona Diaries. One World. Two Pandemics. I was inspired to journal through these COVID and racism challenges by the events unfolding before our eyes. Society was deteriorating right before eyes with the biggest health crisis in our lifetime and racism rearing its ugly head after George Floyd. These simultaneous dark events inspired me to write book to cause reflection and maybe even to laugh sometimes along the way.
4. How long did it take you to write your latest work and how fast do you write (how many words daily)?
Because this book is a journal of daily musings of COVID and racism, I wrote the book real time beginning at the end of March when everyone realized COVID really was a serious thing, and continuing for 100 days. I try to write for at least an hour each day minimum. Depending on what I am writing, I can generate about 1,500 words of unedited material during that time.
5. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I love to write at coffee shops. There’s something about observing people—complete strangers—that provides me with ideas and humor to integrate into my writing and stories.
6. Is writing the only form of artistic expression that you utilize, or is there more to your creativity than just writing?
I also like to express art through food. I have been gourmet cooking for my entire adult life and love to create dishes that not only taste great, but look dazzling. I also performed standup comedy from age 18 to about 40, and I’ve dabbled with a few instruments and singing along the way as well.
7. Authors and books that have influenced your writings?
David Sedaris has been the biggest influence. He also likes to combine trauma with comedy. I once chatted with him after the concert and when I used the word “traumedy” with him, he told me he had never heard the clever word and loved it. Augusten Burroughs also has been a big influence. His ability to create raw honest stories of his challenges and still manage to make you laugh has been an inspiration to my own writing.
8. What are you working on right now? Anything new cooking in the wordsmith’s kitchen?
I have two books I just finished and I am working on a third, but I’m gonna have to keep them under wraps for now. Stay tuned for some exciting projects. Some fun. Some serious.
9. Did you ever think about the profile of your readers? What do you think – who reads and who should read your books?
My books resonate with pretty much anyone who cares about moving society forward in a positive direction, and they resonate with people who have experienced trauma in life, which is most of us. My stories make people think and reflect, oftentimes with familiarity, and almost always with humor so soften the blow.
10. Do you have any advice for new writers/authors?
I think setting aside a certain time and place to write and sticking to it like an appointment is the only sure way to finish a book. Even if you get writer’s block or one day write 100 words and another day write 1,500, stick to the time and place plan like religion and you’ll complete your masterpiece.
11. What is the best advice (about writing) you have ever heard?
Use your own voice. Some writers are trying so hard to emulate or create using someone else’s voice. I was once told, and it’s turned out to be true, that the best writing is when you express your authentic raw self.
12. How many books you read annually and what are you reading now? What is your favorite literary genre?
I read about one to two books a month, although it varies depending on how much writing I am doing. I mix in some memoir type books, some history, historical fiction and race related books. My favorite genre is something I call traumedy. True trauma stories with humor thrown in. I currently am reading The Best of Me by David Sedaris.
13. What do you deem the most relevant about your writing? What is the most important to be remembered by readers?
My writing is intended to cause reflection and personal and societal change. My stories typically involve social issues of the day. I want my books to be remembered as one of several catalysts for reflection and change.