John Banks was born and raised in Asheville, NC. He attended college in Greensboro, NC, and still resides there with his wife, Margaret. For many years, he taught in the public schools and in community colleges, and was later the Director of an adult-education program, experiences which greatly inform Glorify Each Day.
Enjoy this interview.
Tell us about your latest book. What do you hope readers take away from it?
Glorify Each Day is what I consider to be a modern-day fable about how Americans, and maybe all people, have this pent-up anger and this penchant for violence. I call it a fable because I think the whole tone of the book is a bit over-the-top and exaggerated for effect. There are a lot of satirical elements in it. But it also has a serious side, too, where things become very down-to-earth and nitty-gritty. In a nutshell, the story is about Tommy, who has some deep-seated anger issues, and his coming to grips with his past misdeeds. I think it has a nice love story, too, between Tommy and Cait, even though you learn early on that their relationship no longer exists. That’s the main thing that Tommy is trying to come to grips with. What I hope a reader takes away from the book is the feeling that they have just been immersed in a very captivating story that made them laugh, and made them cry, and made them think a little bit about human nature and the human condition and a little more specifically about America and the kind of country we live in.
Book you’re currently reading?
No fiction. I’m reading the journals of Lewis and Clark and some old histories of Texas and South Carolina.
Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how did you get past it? If not, why not?
I don’t know. That’s an interesting subject. I tend to think that it doesn’t exist on a clinical level, but I probably shouldn’t be so cynical – if someone says they have writer’s block, then who am I to argue with them? If someone told me that they were depressed it would be extremely unsympathetic and callous of me to tell them otherwise. Writing can be a very frustrating experience. But the cynical side of me wants to say, “If it’s so frustrating and hard for you to write, then why are you writing?” We all have self-doubts and run into roadblocks that we have to work through, whether it’s trying to think of the right word or the right image or whatever. I would put those things in the category of an occupational hazard. In my own case, I once abandoned a novel I had started, and I’ve never really been clear as to the reasons why that novel didn’t work out. But I remember it as a very frustrating experience. I would have good days when the writing would flow and other days when nothing would come. That certainly sounds like writer’s block, doesn’t it? But I see it as a combination of things – not having a clear idea of what I wanted to say, not being able to look beyond myself and my own experience, or, what’s most likely, I just didn’t have anything very interesting to say at the time. Is it writer’s block if you want to write but feel like you have nothing to say?
I think people who feel compelled to write and who really love writing have the opposite problem – they have diarrhea of the pen. You can’t shut them up. So if someone like that suddenly finds himself unable to write anything, then yeah, there must be some kind of psychological block going on there. I find it interesting, though, that there is this thing called writer’s block but yet you never hear of anyone suffering from painter’s block or musician’s block. Are there painters out there who suddenly can’t find the right colors or a jazz musician who inexplicably can’t jam over the changes? I think that’s because we take our ability to write for granted. Not everyone is compelled to paint or play music. No one forces you to put up an easel or pick up a saxophone. But everyone is taught how to write. It’s a fundamental part of being an educated person. Not everyone likes to write, but everyone who does fairly well in school feels like they know how to write. So if you decide you want to try to write a novel, then you feel like you should be able to do it if you try hard enough. So maybe that’s why writers feel like there must be something wrong with them if they’re having trouble expressing themselves. It comes from our educational system. If we made saxophone-playing compulsory from age five, and were told that we were dummies if we didn’t dig Coltrane, then I bet we would have a lot more frustrated jazzers out there.
Where can we learn more about you?
Go to my website at www.819publishing.com/. Or google “Glorify Each Day” and read what people have said about the novel.