Today we're talking to John Banks, author of Glorify Each Day. John was born in Asheville, N.C. His storytelling is very much southern tradition with a special affinity for humorists such as Mark Twain and the Old Southwest school of writers. Though entirely imaginary, much of the material in Glorify Each Day must have come from his many years as a teacher in the public schools and community colleges of his native state and from the three years he spent as an a community college administrator.
Q: Thank you for this interview, John. Can you tell us how long you’ve been writing and how your journey led to writing your book, Glorify Each Day?
My only ambition is college was to be a novelist. I had always gotten a lot of positive feedback from my fiction and I thought that writing was the one and only thing I was really good at. But I failed at my first attempt at writing a novel because, among other reasons, I was taking the whole process too seriously and looking at the writing process as a job rather than as something that should be enjoyable. I went several years without writing anything, but then the itch to write returned and I made a promise to myself that I was only going to continue writing if I was enjoying the process. The novel started out as very broad comedy because that’s the most enjoyable thing to write, but my ideas starting taking a more serious turn and the book became darker, but it was still very enjoyable for me to write every day.
Q: Can you tell us how you came up with the title, Glorify Each Day?
Everyone who has mentioned the title to me has assumed that the novel is of a very religious nature. I guess I can understand that, since the word “glorify” typically has a religious connotation, but there’s no reason why it must be religious.
When I came up with the title, I was actually thinking of the word “glorify” in a more secular way. I asked myself, Why do writers write about the things that they choose to write about? Why write about one thing rather than some other thing? What is the purpose of writing anything? Writing isn’t just about educating someone – you can teach anyone anything without writing a word. And it isn’t just about passing down knowledge to future generations – knowledge was passed down for millennia without benefit of writing. So why go to the trouble of writing anything? This is something I was thinking about a lot as I was writing this novel. Strangely enough, though, I was thinking more in terms of nonfiction that fiction. Creating fictional scenarios and fictional characters is a whole different animal than writing nonfiction. But I think of nonfiction as a much more noble pursuit. Fiction is more about entertainment and personal expression, which are good things, but mostly selfish in nature. Writers of nonfiction, however, are after something else. They choose a person or a subject to write about because it needs to be brought to light. They are saying, “I’m writing about this because it’s important.” I think that when we choose to write about something we are making an attempt to elevate it, to exalt it – to glorify it. When we choose to write about something it’s because we feel deeply that it deserves to be exalted in some way. We’re putting the subject matter up on a pedestal. So, to finally answer your question, to name my novel Glorify Each Day was one way of saying, “This is what the act of writing is all about – to tell someone’s story is to glorify that person, to honor him or her and say, “This person is worth writing about.”
Q: Why did you believe your book should be published?
I think I’ve come up with an original story that’s told in an original way and I think that a lot of people will enjoy it.
Q: What book on the market can it compare to? How is it different? What makes your book special?
I think Glorify Each Day belongs with any other work of fiction that tries to deal with serious subjects in an entertaining and interesting way. Writers like Joseph Heller and John Irving come to mind. Or going back a few years, Mark Twain. There’s a lot of satire in the book.
Q: Open to a random page in your book. Can you tell us what is happening?
Okay, I tried to open the book as close to the middle as I could and I opened it to page 137, which is not quite halfway, but close. On that page I’m starting to tell a little satirical story about how community colleges are always tinkering with their enrollment policies to increase their enrollment or to retain the students they have. In this case I’m talking about attendance policies and my fictional school’s attempt to keep students in class. It doesn’t really have too much to do with the main story, but it’s just a little side street that I go down. What prompts this little detour is the character of James Henry, who is always late for class. At this point in the book James is just a peripheral character, but he becomes more important later on.
Q: Do you plan subsequent books?
I can only think about one book at a time, but now that Glorify is finished, I’m definitely turning a few ideas over in my head.
Q: Thank you for your interview, John. Do you have any final words?
Other than “please buy my book”? I guess I’ve said enough, but thank you for the interview opportunity.