In our new author series, we’ll be offering a clairvoyant peek behind the veil of who and what makes up TRANSCENDENT. Here’s a glimpse at N.H. Jackson and his story “An Ode to the Feeling of Entering Virginia.”
ABOUT THE STORY
What inspired your story?
An actual road trip that my friends and I took summer 2017 and, of course, the feeling which entering the state of Virginia gave us. In that, the story quite literally is an ode to the feeling of entering Virginia: it was a warmth and a closeness, a sort of elation that would sound silly or overblown if I were to have described it coldly or in a matter-of-fact way. In order to come close to making the feeling accessible to those not living inundated by the transient mythology of friendship, it needed to follow some bit of fictionalized psychological horror or another.
Can you tell me a little bit about your protagonist?
The protagonist is, at first, a hypothetical form of the reader created by their imagination while reading, but the narrator is a tyrannical one, impressing his fears and his response to the uncanny on the protagonist and the reader both. This begins when the tense changes, and the two become inseparable in fear and exultation from then on. Needless to say, this protagonist, given form by the reader and emotion by the narrator, is wholly unreliable, as their perceptions are warped beyond recognition by fear and the kind of nervous personality that’s prone to gibbering.
Tell me about the setting you chose and how it influences your work.
The setting being both various mid-Atlantic states and the inside of a car allowed me to (attempt to) create a claustrophobic atmosphere while still retaining the wider world of the trip: you have the coffin of the Dodge Durango sliding through the greater vaulted tomb of the highway and the countryside, both curving in and pressing down on the protagonist and the reader. But, after the sunrise, to have the car rolling along through the golden Shenandoah Valley with the Blue Ridge Mountains on one side and the Appalachians on the other, to have it surrounded by such sweeping majesty, what is it but a nugget of gold itself? Against such a backdrop, the protagonist and their friends are brought closer and by that closeness are revived.
What would you like readers to take away from your story?
If anyone learns anything from this story, I’d like for it to be this: the horrible and the sublime can both influence our thoughts (the former warping, the latter elevating), but the sublime is more powerful. The horrible sets us against those around us and the things we suspect but can’t see, but the sublime brings us closer to it all.
Which phrase are you most proud of in this story?
I’m most proud of “And then you enter Virginia with the rising of the sun,” because of how its relative short length and simplicity work with its placement to create what I hope is an effective turning point in the story.
If your story was front-page news, what would the headline be?
PERSON SITS IN MOVING VEHICLE, DOES NOTHING, SCARES SELF ANYWAYS
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I’ll be able to answer that question once I spend the money I make from “An Ode.”
If you had to put your name on someone else’s book/story, which would it be and why?
I’m tempted to shoot for the fences here, but if I were credited for writing some great work of literature that I love like Moby Dick or Light in August, I think my writing career would be over just as it began: I wouldn’t be able to follow it up with anything a quarter as good. I know it’s a hypothetical question, but I’d like to have a nice hypothetical life afterwards.
When did you decide to take writing seriously?
Six or so years ago, when I was a sophomore in high school. I decided to pick it up as a hobby because I was all right at it, and my friend did, too. He and I urged each other along for the next couple of years, and all the while I was getting more and more serious about honing my craft and whatnot.
If you could choose a single superpower, what would it be and why?
Teleportation. I hate traveling, but I love being places.
Noah is a college student and a writer, among other things. He loves spooky stuff, writing about spooky stuff, and, despite everything, going on road trips.
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