Whether it’s a modern-day fairytale or hardcore science fiction, Jake Vander Ark attacks every story with brutal realism and down-to-earth characters. No subject is taboo. Truth is paramount.
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago influenced the experimental quirks of his stories, while his pursuits in Hollywood hammered the importance of traditional storytelling. This unique fusion of structure and innovation brings to life the most beautiful girl in the world in The Accidental Siren, the gritty morality tale of Lighthouse Nights, the cryptic prologue of The Brandywine Prophet, and the mind-melting climax of The Day I Wore Purple.
When Jake isn’t writing, he’s building rustic furniture for his small business, engaging with his readers online, and livin’ it up with his wife and dogs.
Damien Ahuir: Could you tell us about your first novel, Lighthouse Nights?
JVA: My mom sat me down after reading the screenplay version. She told me she loved it, that I was very gifted, and that I was going to hell. Okay… she didn’t say “hell.” But the subject matter disturbed her enough to call me out on it. That’s when I knew I was on the right track.
Dayla FM: The Accidental Siren touches on the perils of obsession. Would you consider this dark topic something you’ve had to deal with in the past?
JVA: I had a very fortunate childhood with a supportive family and great friends, so I’ve never been in the position of any of these characters. However, the closest thing to an “obsession” would be my pursuit of a creative career. I’ve gone to some dark places when it seemed like I wouldn’t make it. I lied about my intentions, ignored advice… leached off friends and family… and I’ve questioned the reason for living if “creativity” couldn’t be a part of my life.
Camilla Stein: What can you tell me about your characters? Do they get under your skin?
JVA: Generally, my characters are planned out pretty well. They change and develop as the story progresses, but I usually have their arc planned out from the beginning. There’s one major exception from The Brandywine Prophet; William Carmel had a mind of his own. I had a very specific plot in mind for him, but he started making his own decisions halfway through the book. There was actually a point where I said, “I wash my hands of this,” and let him take over.
ExTV: Your writing has a cinematic quality to it, particularly in the descriptions of character’s appearances and the environments. How has your background in film affected your writing?
JVA: When writing screenplays, the focus is always on plot and dialogue. The story needs to be planned impeccably to fit a story in ninety pages, so structure became very important to me. Every scene must contain drama, and it must move the story forward. I know artists often hate these kinds of rules, but if you want people to read your work, you need to learn them inside and out.
As for my movie-like descriptions, these may come from the “pre-production” stage I go through before starting a new book. I watch any movie that might be related to the story, I screen-capture my favorite shots, and I try to fill at least half of a Moleskine with clippings and printouts. I rarely refer to these pictures during the writing process, but I think it helps to establish my initial frame of mind which then influences the mood of the entire book.