We were so taken by “Coda” wanted to get to know the man behind the story. So, for your reading pleasure, we proudly introduce Jack Somers.
Rum Punch Press: One of the great strengths of “Coda” is the dialogue, which is weighty and fraught throughout the story, particularly during the snappy repartee between Doug and his old flame Hannah. What craft techniques do you favor when writing dialogue?
Jack Somers: When I write dialogue, one of my main goals is to make that dialogue sound as realistic as possible. To do this, I try to write dialogue that sounds spontaneous because I think most conversation is spontaneous. It’s reacting to whatever was just said. There isn’t time, typically, to think through fifty different ways of saying something before you decide what you’re actually going to say. With this in mind, I try not to overthink dialogue because I know my characters wouldn’t have time to overthink it. When I finish writing a particular piece of dialogue, I’ll usually go back and read the whole story with the dialogue in place to see if it flows and sounds believable and authentic. I also take the character speaking into consideration when creating dialogue and ask myself, “Is this something this character would really say?” For instance, at one point in “Coda,” Hannah jokes that it shouldn’t be hard to find a better man than Doug. She says this playfully but there is a bit of an edge to the comment, too—a sense that she might not be entirely kidding. This line made sense for her because it fit her personality. She is basically a thoughtful, smart, good person, but she can have a sharp tongue, and she is fully capable of cutting someone down to size.
RPP: Throughout the story, Doug spends a lot of time reflecting on his identity–who he was, who he is, who he could be–and he sees the past as a perilous trap that he’ll fall into if he lingers with Hannah too long. What was your main objective when writing these moments of reflection?
JS: I think like a lot of writers, I was processing my own experience of aging, growing up, moving away from youth. I turned 35 in September. My wife and I had our third child in January. I am, at this point, completely detached from my carefree days of bachelorhood—from the days when I was staying out late, playing guitar, shooting pool at bars. I have fully accepted that now, and I am very happy in my role as a father and a husband. But for a number of years—around the age of 30—I had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that my youth was in the rearview mirror and that I wouldn’t be able to reenter it. With regard to “the past as a perilous trap,” I think that might be a bit extreme, but I think there is danger in trying to go back and live a life that is clearly behind you. People change and environments change, and even if you squeeze into the same skinny jeans and go to the same bar you went to when you were 22 with the same friends you had then, it’s not going to be the same. It will just be a sad pantomime. I guess that’s the real danger—getting wrapped up in a phony situation, a desperate reenactment of times forever gone.
RPP: This story has a stellar ending with a stark final image. What made you choose to end the story with Marcy instead of Hannah?
JS: I know the ending may seem a bit grim. I suppose Marcy represents the present and future and Hannah represents the past. The story ends with Marcy because Doug accepts that he has to live in and deal with the present and the future. At the risk of giving too much away, that is his arc. He goes from being a man who thinks he may be able to resurrect and relive the past to one who realizes that the past is unreachable. That being said, I do not think he feels he should simply forget the past. When he leaves Hannah, they are on good terms. They both understand that what they had is now gone but that they are glad to have had it and that they will always be able to cherish it.
RPP: Where else can we read your work?
JS: You can find a full list of my publications and forthcoming publications with links at my web site: www.jacksomerswriter.com. You can also visit me on Twitter @jsomers530.