If (like me) you know there is an afterlife but are not sure just what that consists of, please take the time to read my interview with Beem Weeks, Indie author of ‘Jazz Baby’. The fascinating answers he gives to my questions would certainly make anyone sit up and wonder about what is waiting for us in the next world:
1. Which person had the greatest influence on you as you were growing up?
I would have to say my father had the greatest influence on me as a child and my early teen years. But then rebellion set in, and maybe I didn’t appreciate my father as much for a period of time. I had a journalism teacher in high school who had a big influence on me becoming a writer.
2. Does creativity run in your family?
Yes. My grandfather and father both had the writing bug, though neither saw publication. My father regularly submitted his short stories to various publications like Reader’s Digest and Esquire. He received nothing but rejection letters for his efforts. My grandfather played guitar and wrote a song that a country singer recorded back in the early 1970s. It wasn’t a hit.
3. How much progress have you made with your second novel?
My second novel has actually been on the back burner while I work to get a short story collection published this summer. I’ll get back to the novel soon enough. I’m not in a hurry.
4. Do you believe in an afterlife?
I do indeed. I had a near-death experience in October of 1996 that showed me there is truly more to come once we are done on this plane of existence. It wasn’t a warm-and-fuzzy light-filled experience, either. It let me know I needed to make serious changes to my life.
5. If you were forced to sell all your possessions but could keep one thing, what would you keep?
That would be my Bible. It’s the only possession I own that I truly value. Everything else is just stuff.
6. What’s the top item on your bucket list?
I don’t know; I’ve never really given it much thought. I would like to see the Rolling Stones before they finally call it a day—since the Beatles and Led Zeppelin are out of the question.
7. What was the turning point that made you want to give up drugs and alcohol?
The above-mentioned near-death experience. It came about due to toxic alcohol poisoning after a week-long drunken binge. I suffered a massive seizure and found myself out of my body, in a very dark place, and completely sober (my body was drunk, but my soul was not). I was no longer in the presence of God—and I fully comprehended this fact.
8. Do you find you can use your experience of addiction to a positive effect nowadays?
Sure, for my own sobriety. I haven’t touched a drop since that night in October of 1996. I know what alcohol and drugs can do to the body as well as to the mind and soul. I know what it’s like to be both spiritually dead and miserable, and to be spiritually alive and loving life. I can share this experience with others—and I do—but I can’t give it to anybody. The individual has to want sobriety. I had been in and out of rehab and Alcoholics Anonymous for years before God opened my eyes to reality.
9. Are you an optimist or a pessimist?
An optimist. If a person walks through life expecting bad things to happen, that’s what they’ll get. I’m alive and truly loving life.
10. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I don’t look that far ahead. We aren’t promised tomorrow. I lost my little brother in 2010. It came suddenly and completely unexpectedly. That right there taught me that life is to be lived one day at a time. Now, should God see fit to give me another ten years, I’d like to be with family, good friends, and living in the country, working on my seventh or eighth novel while prepping Jazz Baby for the big screen.
11. If you were President of the USA, what new law would you enforce?
No new laws. We’re suffocating under stupid and foolish laws already. I would instead enforce the U.S. Constitution as the founders of the United States intended. I would declare each and every unconstitutional law null and void. Then I’d issue arrest warrants for members of congress, past and present, who had a hand in enacting all of those unconstitutional laws. I would issue arrest warrants for members of the U.S. Supreme court, for upholding these fraudulent laws. Upon conviction, well, we would deal with these treasonous traitors accordingly. As you might surmise, I’ve long considered these notions!
12. If you could live your life all over again, what one thing would you change?
I wouldn’t have lost the girl. I chased away the best thing that ever happened to me, and I’ve spent the last 26 years regretting my foolish, drunken stupidity. I ended up marrying a woman I had no business being involved with in the first place. But these are lessons learned. Move forward!
13. What is your favourite song?
“Damage, Inc.” by Metallica is one I’d consider a favourite. It’s just a great angry type of song—though I’m not an angry man anymore. “Something” by the Beatles is the one song I wish I’d written. There are dozens of songs that could be my favourite on any given day. I just love all sorts of music.
14. If you could have been anybody else in history, who would you like to have been?
Hemingway. The man packed a lifetime into every adventure he undertook. I wouldn’t want the ending he chose, but Paris in the 1920s? I am so there!
15. Are you a loner, or do you like lots of people around you?
As a younger man, I needed a crowd around me all the time. As I’ve grown older, I find I appreciate the quiet moments so much more than I did in the past. I still enjoy having family and friends around, though.
16. Are you competitive? Would you mind if somebody else was Koobug’s top blogger?
I am competitive. Especially in the realm of sport! I am a fervent fan of many of my local sports teams—both professional and college. As for the top blogger spot: I wouldn’t mind at all if others wear that crown. The sky, with a single star, would be dark and boring. A million stars in the firmament makes for something wondrous and bright.
17. Do you play in a band?
I’m not in a band these days. I sang lead vocals in a heavy metal band way back in the mid-1980s. I wanted to play guitar but I’m just not that good on the instrument—though I do enjoy plugging in and giving the thing a good thrashing every so often.
18. What is your favourite book?
That would be The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. It’s a masterpiece, in my humble opinion.
19. Would you rather be lying on a Caribbean beach, or be at a loud rock festival?
Hmm. That’s a tough decision to consider. I’d have to say a rock festival. Especially if it’s a loud rock festival with Metallica headlining!
20. Have you ever read a sentence that really stands out and wish you’d written it? If so, what?
There are plenty of amazing sentences that have really grabbed my attention. Daniel Woodrell is a master at writing brilliant lines. But my copy of Winter’s Bone is packed away in a box down in my basement, as is my copy of The Poisonwood Bible. So I’ll share a something from a little known writer named Jeanne M. Leiby. It’s actually a paragraph from one of her short stories entitled Nike Site. The character narrating this is a ten-year-old girl, the scene is a Michigan neighborhood on Halloween night: (I don’t remember what I felt then, but I know that even if I had the vocabulary for lust and sex and desire, that wasn’t it. Trini was fearlessness. I wanted to wrap my hands around the stories our mothers whispered, wring out the silences, let them drip like blood onto the white marble back of the glass-eyed deer. I wanted Trini to scream into my mouth and knead the muscles in my back. I wanted to squeeze out all the danger, see it before me in a puddle, run through it in my father’s work boots, and dance footprints all over the white living-room rug.) Jeanne M. Leiby died in an automobile accident a few years ago, taking with her an incredible talent for telling stories. If you haven’t discovered the few works she left behind, I suggest a reading of her short story collection called Downriver.
Thanks so much Beem, for agreeing to be interviewed and for giving such amazing answers! I look forward to your new short story collection.