Writers on Lockdown: Jonathan D Clark

Jonathan D Clark is author of philosophical novel Arcadia, and his short story The Video was published in our recent anthology, Vast. As part of our Writers on Lockdown series, he joined me to discuss isolation, paranoia, and the dark side of our relationship with technology.


Hi Jonathan, welcome to Writers on Lockdown!

Thanks for having me as part of this series. It’s a pleasure.

How are you surviving in these crazy times, do you find isolation is a help or a hindrance to your writing process?

I’ve always been a rather reclusive individual (going to and from my day jobs throughout the years without speaking to anyone), so besides the limitations on what there is to do around town—and having to snipe for groceries—not a whole lot has changed for me due to the lockdown. Although, it did give me the chance to tell my more extroverted friends “welcome to my domain.” And as for productivity, it did witness a spike in the first week, but it has since slowed back down to its original pace.

Are you working on anything at the moment?

For the past year I’ve been working on my next novel, along with the occasional short story here and there when I feel I need a break from the grand narrative.

Can you tell us anything about the new novel at this stage, or is it top secret?

Unlike Arcadia, my current WIP (titled False Cathedrals) will have a more contemporary setting; taking place in 2012 in the fictional town of Midtown, Vermont—as well as a few chapters taking place in the mid-to-late 90s. At the heart of the novel is Daniel Bloom, a middle-aged psychotherapist who can’t seem to escape the haunting memory of his first wife, Karen; even after fourteen years have passed since her untimely demise at the hands of a crazed shooter, now dormant. Hoping to distract himself, Daniel puts all his focus into helping a patient find lucidity after well over a decade of uncertainty. But it doesn’t help when he hears that the shooter has started a new, violent rampage.

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Learning To Fly

2017-09-06 21.25.01
I am encased, swaddled, and smothered by an invisible substance. My skin is writhing and earthy beyond my threshold, so I step into a soothing bath to remove the unwanted film for the third time today: the transformation is less prominent there. I congratulate myself briefly when I finally manage to open the book I’ve been staring at for the last hour and a half, and I hide out in it like it’s a protective roof over my head. But just minutes later it caves in and my concentration wanes once again. That is when the dreams begin to come. Dreams of wriggling, striving, and rupturing.

There’s a tapping at my window. A sad, gaunt face with sunken eyes is peering in. I know it is self pity and it doesn’t belong here, so I press my fingertips against my temples and try to cast it away. It doesn’t go.
The tapping escalates to a pounding, and I know something in my chest cavity is screaming to get out. With a mouth full of dry cloth I try to call for help, but am met only by the eyes of the bothered and the perplexed, who join self pity at my window. I become dizzy and confused when the world fades out and I shrink further and further behind my watering eyes.

With my heart in my mouth, I am falling down from a high bridge across a fast flowing current. I hit the water hard and am thrust into its body, my nostrils filling quickly and stinging the back of my throat. A fist grips my hair at the neck and heaves my head above water to make sure I can hear loud and clear: “you are supposed to be dowsing, not drowning! This is all for your art, so suck it up, sweetheart!” I long for my oppressor to take me in his arms but he thrusts me back beneath the surface and walks away without another look. But it hurts, I answer in my mind, it hurts so damn much.

[For a moment I am back in my office, searching through a box of data cards. Each one has a crudely drawn face on it and I am trying to find a match for my memories. If I can recognise myself, maybe I can recalibrate my mind. Then all of a sudden the change is upon me, and I know exactly which one of the scribbles I am. Throbbing dissonance starts up in the background that I cannot be separate from; the music that connects with my soul and drags it forth. I feel the click of the safety harness latching onto my core, and the world comes back into focus. The software is loaded, the goal is set.]

Now I can feel the rhythm of the sea that carries me, and I rock my body slowly backwards and forwards along with it like we were one. I gaze over the edge of the boat, into the deep waters that previously surrounded my body. Such a relief to be heading home to warmth and comfort, and yet also the sharp pang of an ending. A thought crosses my mind that I should abandon the boat and leap right back in: the grief is all that is familiar, after all. Fortunately perhaps, I am unable to carry out the whim, for the music has me in its grip and will not let me go. There are lyrics accompanying it now, and although I can’t quite make them out they seem to be telling me to feel the full force of the butterflies in my stomach. Feel them, remove the blockage: it is stopping the buzz of energy from flowing through the veins.

The butterflies are blue, and they are dancing, not struggling. They are not caged, they are not trapped. They are simply fluttering around delicately in the only way they know how. They were once wriggling beasts, but now they are learning to fly. It’s time to let them out.

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