What is The Greatest Most Traveling Circus, you ask?
Why, it’s a mythical place, a philosophy of life, a new book you’ll love.
It’s a collection of stories about vampires and superheroes, gypsy curses, giant killer robots, psychics, love potions, bar fights over stolen angel wings, and imaginary monsters.
It’s also a novel about overcoming depression, handling loss, and trying to find meaning in a world where the supernatural isn’t the hardest part of life to accept.
It’s the most fabulous book behind the most understated cover. And it will make you happy to be alive.
The print edition of The Greatest Most Traveling Circus is all yours from Sweet Candy Press: http://www.sweetcandypress.com. And there’s a Kindle edition, too.
Ariel: I fell in love with The Greatest Most Traveling Circus almost immediately when I cracked the cover. I could just feel the joy emanating from the pages. Is writing for you as joyous a process as it seems from the reading point of few—or more an arduous art?
Jonas: It was definitely a joy. I loved telling these stories. I would get immersed in them for long stretches of time. I’d write at work, at home, during my commute to work, in the bathroom; practically everywhere. When I wasn’t writing, I was still thinking about the characters and story lines. It was really exhilarating. On the train home from work, I’d write something that would have me literally laughing out loud, and I’d get a little worried that people around me thought that I was a crazy person. Then some parts actually had me in tears right after I wrote them. I can think of a few parts in particular that hit me pretty hard.
I mean, it was draining at the same time. There’s quite a lot of really personal stuff embedded in there. But writing it never felt like a chore.
Ariel: Can we talk about genre? Your book had been called an anthology but also a novel. What more can you tell me about the genre? I usually think of an anthology as multi-author, and all these stories are written by you. And I think of a novel as single-author and single-protagonist…
Jonas: I was really torn on whether to call it an anthology or a novel. Technically, it’s an anthology. But at one point during the writing, I started thinking of each story more as a chapter. There are recurring themes, a lot of characters reappear or are mentioned in several stories, and often details in one story resolve or unfold certain situations from previous stories. I wanted it to feel like an anthology at first, then unfold slowly in a way that feels like one story with a large cast of characters. I think, for me at least, the character Ramona is the protagonist, and the whole book is building up to her story.
Ariel: A theme of the book—right from the start—seems to be a certain randomness of existence. I was recommending it to someone and I called it “kind of a beach read that is also meditation on existential philosophy.” Do you think that’s a fair characterization? Or am I just maybe feeling very random and reading into it?
Jonas: That’s a perfect way to put it! I was reading an awful lot of philosophy while I was writing the book. Right from the beginning, what I tired to do was tackle a lot of very complicated philosophical ideas within the context of very simple stories. The layers are there, but you don’t have to dig for them to enjoy the book. I didn’t want it to be stuffy. Then, yes, many of the characters each seem to be in the middle of an existential crisis, you know, looking for a deeper personal meaning to life—which they realize, for better or worse, through the friendships they build.
Ariel: How long did it take to write The Greatest Most Traveling Circus? What do you like about the final product?
Jonas: I wrote the first stories around 2006 or so. I’d write large batches of them, compile them and give them to my wife as small gifts. I started writing the Amazing Man stories just after the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007. The inspiration was pretty clear at the time, you know, contrasting the renewed excitement over superheroes in movies with a tragic mass murder; you know, the fascination with superheroes in a country that keeps showing us very real, dangerous villains. It’s mind-boggling that, since then, superhero movies have become even more popular, and there have been many more mass murders like the Virginia Tech shooting. I mean, there was that Colorado shooting in 2012, where the shooter actually referred to himself as The Joker, and went on his rampage at the premier of a superhero flick.
But yeah, around 2007 is when I started to look at the work as a cohesive book and not just a set of stories that occasionally intersected. I finished it around the spring of 2011, but then there were edits here and there right up until it was published.
I’m really happy with how it all comes together, but I still think it works if you just flip through it and read the individual stories at random.