Friday, February 17, 2023

J.A. Tyler Interview - Only and Ever This

Photo Content from CJ. A. Tyler

J. A. Tyler is the author of Only and Ever This and The Zoo, a Going (both from Dzanc Books). His fiction has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Black Warrior Review, Fairy Tale Review, New York Tyrant, Diagram, Failbetter, and The Brooklyn Rail among others. He has given workshops and readings at universities and writing conferences around the U.S., including AWP, Lake Forest’s &Now series, the National Writing Project at Colorado State University, and the Bankhead Visiting Writers Series at the University of Alabama. He lives in Colorado.


When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
The realization of writing hit me at some point between elementary school, writing (and illustrating) a mock Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book, and when I was an undergraduate, drafting every day in those small, leatherbound journals. I used to describe it to people as feeling compelled to write, but now I see it’s more than that, because it isn’t a compulsion, like using hand sanitizer forty times a day. It’s a love, a deep love, the kind that brings you joy and hurts you sometimes, because it is difficult and challenging, because it is the most vulnerable I can be.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
As with all my writing, I am my own greatest distraction. I have to stop myself from critiquing every sentence as it comes out, have to stop from thinking ahead of where I am in the plot, especially in terms of that most awful, artist-killing question: Will it sell?

Has reading a book ever changed your life? Which one and why, if yes?
The Catcher in the Rye changed my life junior year of high school. Until then, I’d read voraciously in the vein of Dean Koontz and Stephen King, and while I loved their novels, I hadn’t yet understood how writing could be two-faced, characters who contradicting themselves, points of view embedded so heavily into the heart of the character that we were privy to the weight of their sadness, the consumptive power of their delusions.

Can you tell us when you started Only and Ever This, how that came about?
The first images came from The Goonies, that rain-soaked adventure film of kids in the midst of growing up, of finding their own feet beneath them for the first time. Couple that with my own kids growing up, how painful that can be as a parent, to know (and not know) what is coming, and either way to have to let it happen, without any recourse beyond your own grasping at best intentions.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?
When the novel was done, I realized there is a part of me in each character. I knew I was the Father, the pirate, the one who goes away because he doesn’t understand how to be a dad. And I had an inkling that I was also (in pieces) the Mother who wants to freeze her kids before they can get any older, to halt them. But only in the end did I see that there are large parts of me in the twins too, because even as times change, as contexts transform, growing up is still growing up.

  • The novel took ten years of writing and revising before publication
  • The port scenes are filled with characters based on strangers in a 24 hr. coffee house where I wrote some of the first drafts
  • Part of the novel process was just about seeing how many monsters I could get into one book
  • I write while listening to loud music, which helps temporarily drown my inner-critic
  • I listened (on blast) to Bon Iver and Alt-J the most while writing this one
  • At readings, I like to read the scene where the Mother is practicing mummification on a cat, because it is bloody and unexpected and ends with the twins eating raspberry jam
  • The Chinchorro mummies referenced in the novel are in fact the oldest examples of artificially mummified human remains
  • The book, however, that Mother reads about the Chinchorro mummies doesn’t exist
  • The string circle used when the twins play marbles is something my family did when my own kids were little
  • Light and rain are the two biggest influences (outside of characters) in the novel
What is the first job you have had?
I worked in landscape starting at fourteen, forty hours a week in the summer, and it definitely shaped my work ethic and created a discipline in me that still translates to my writing.

What is your most memorable travel experience?
We love road trips and have taken them all over the U.S., branching out from Colorado to both coasts, and one of my favorite parts of each trip is watching the landscapes morphing each day.

Which incident in your life totally changed the way you think today?
9/11. Even in Colorado, standing outside that afternoon and looking at the sky, knowing there were no planes in it, and knowing why, built in me an anxiety about life and living, about doing justice to each day, that persists still.

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep?
Typically, whatever book I’m reading. Right now, I’m chewing through The Iliad, so: spears, bloodshed, gods, ships.

What is one unique thing are you afraid of?
I hate anything to do with teeth. When teeth chip or break, the dentist, anything tooth related, which is ironic given the tooth pulling scene in the novel.

A mother clings to twin sons, desperate to keep them from becoming their father, a pirate forever sailing away. In this rain-soaked township, she will attempt to mummify them, piece by piece, to stop them from growing up, a hope founded in magic and immortality. Meanwhile, their father obsesses the seas with his own belief in ever-lasting life, learning too late that his heart belongs on shore. In Only and Ever This, a family must endure father loss, a mother’s grief, and roiling adolescence, slipping as it does into arcades, caves, and the young love for a ghostly girl up the street.
You can purchase Only and Ever This at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you A.J. TYLER for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Only and Ever This by J.A. Tyler.


  1. Emilia Clarke, Natalie Portman and Monica Belucci

  2. Adam sandler, rob schneider and vince vaughn.

  3. Ashley McBryde, Chaz Bono, Kresley Cole