Centerville’s Simon Jacobs rolls out debut novel
“Writing ‘Palaces’ was a random process, to be honest,” says Simon Jacobs, a 2009 graduate of Centerville High School, describing the creation of his debut novel.
“Palaces” was published January 2018 by Two Dollar Radio, a renowned independent press based in Columbus.
“I began writing flash fiction (very short stories) when I was 19 or so. Then I realized that many of these stories had the same tone. Eventually, I had a book’s worth of stories about different versions of the same characters,” explains Simon. But I still felt I hadn’t gotten the characters just right. So, ‘Palaces’ started as a tonal experiment — could I shape a story around these characters in novel form?”
“The seed for ‘Palaces’ was a story in which two of my flash-fiction characters came upon an abandoned mansion, with all of its grotesquely luxurious art and trappings,” Simon adds.
“I wrote this as a fragment and built out from there over four years. I started the book in 2013, when I was 22, and finally considered it finished in 2017.”
The novel concerns John and Joey, a young couple immersed in their local Midwestern punk scene, who after college move to an unnamed northeastern coastal city.
Late one night, after the city descends into chaos, they take refuge in a pharmacy only to discover the city is in riot.
They are the only passengers on a commuter train headed north, and at the final stop, discover an area of abandoned mansions. The duo must then navigate a bizarre future.
The novel is already garnering top-notch reviews on Goodreads and from Foreword Reviews, which calls it “robust, both current and clairvoyant … a wonderful novel that takes no prisoners.”
Simon made his first mark on the literary world while still in college, with his unique literary concoction, “Safety Pin Review,” with brief stories published both online and as wearable literary art pinned to the back of jackets by volunteer “operatives.” Notable literary figures such as Margaret Atwood and Sherman Alexie tweeted and blogged about “Safety Pin Review.”
At just 23, his first story collection, “Saturn,” a collection of David Bowieinspired short stories, was published by Spork Press; his other short story collection is “Masterworks,” published by Instar Books, and his other fiction has appeared in Tin House, Black Warrior Review, Joyland and Paper Darts.
He lives in New York City, where he works for Taylor & Francis Group: Routledge, as commissioning editor on the Focal Press/Routledge filmmaking and video list.
Simon’s mom happens to be Martha Moody, a local author of literary, best-selling novels such as “Best Friends” and “Sharp and Dangerous Virtues,” to name just a few. (Learn more about her novels at www.marthamoody.net.)
“Having a mom who is a writer is absolutely an influence,” observes Simon.
“I have a great model to follow in her, both because she writes wellresearched and pointedly observed books — I’ve read and loved them all — and because of her process.
‘Two paragraphs a day’ has long been her mantra, and I’ve witnessed her attitude about putting herself in her writing chair and making something on a steady basis no matter what is happening elsewhere in life, rather waiting to feel inspired. This approach was formative to me as a writer.”
Simon’s path to publishing is also informative.
“Two Dollar Radio was the first indie publisher I knew about. I began reading their publications while I was in college.
It was an awakening for me. Seeing who they published, and which literary magazines those writers had shorter works in, led me to read those publications as well.”
Simon submitted a final draft of “Palaces” to Two Dollar Radio in 2015, not really expecting an offer.
By the time a year passed and he hadn’t heard back, he assumed that the publisher wasn’t interested — but then he received an email of interest.
He met with the publisher at the AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs — www.awpwriter.org) conference and soon enough after that, had a publishing agreement with Two Dollar Radio.
“For people interested in starting to engage with online/indie lit, I’d recommend just steeping yourself in online flash and short fiction — there are tons of great places out there, like Joyland (short fiction with a regional focus); Paper Darts (tonally diverse art and lit, mostly by women); Smokelong Quarterly (flash fiction); Hobart (fiction and non of all varieties), just to name a few. And a lot of the prestigious print journals — like Tin House, Kenyon Review — all have online components and archives that you can dive into,” says Simon.
“Besides Two Dollar Radio, some of my favorite indie book publishers are Dorothy, Tin House Books, Spork Press, Melville House and Soft Skull.”
And for those interested in Simon’s work and learning more about him, visit www.simonajacobs. blogspot.com
UPCOMING LITERARY EVENTS
■ Tuesday, Jan. 30, 7 p.m., Books & Co. at The Greene — Popular children’s author Gordon Korman will introduce “Supergifted,” the sequel to his successful kids’ novel, “Ungifted.”
■ Friday, Feb. 2, 7-8:30 p.m. Wright Memorial Public Library, 1776 Far Hills Ave., Oakwood — Writers’ Café, a casual hang out for writers ages 18 and up and of all experience levels, meets the first Friday (7:00 p.m.) and third Sunday (at 2:30) of each month.
■ Wednesday, Feb. 7, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Oakwood Starbucks, 2424 Far Hills Ave. — Word’s Worth Writing Center (www.wordsworthdayton. com) offers “First Wednesday Writing Workout” with author and creative writing instructor Katrina Kittle. These sessions will offer writing prompts, the time to explore them, a mini-craft lesson, loads of tips, and the opportunity to share impromptu pieces. See the website to register.
Sharon Short (www. sharonshort.com) is a novelist and director of the Antioch Writers' Workshop. Contact Sharon with news about your book club or organization. Email: sharon[email protected] sharonshort.com. Twitter: @ SharonGShort Patterson 6. The Wisdom of Sundays Oprah Winfrey Haddish Walter Isaacson Tiffany
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Palaces was published January 2018 by Two Dollar Radio, a renowned independent press based in Columbus, Ohio.