Jared Kane is author of the vast and vivid post-apocalyptic novel, Decline. This is a work with a heart, that makes emotional demands from the reader, that offers befitting dividends in exchange upon conclusion. Jared Kane is a Canadian, but Decline has the anywhere/everywhere feel of a world undone when borders are myths and origins are unimportant. It is a novel of depth and interspection. I’ve contacted Mr. Kane for an interview and rather than focus the course, I’ve let the author walk me through his answers.
Unnerving: Explain Decline for those that haven’t read it.
Kane: Decline has, of course, a post-apocalyptic setting, and putting it simply, it is the story of the very end. It’s not about how society crumbled and the infrastructure betrayed us all: it’s long past that point. The world has ostensibly been returned to nature, and all that’s left is the ruins we’ve left behind.
In this world, relationships are exceedingly rare, and choosing your friends is not possible. Within this world, the narrator finds unlikely camaraderie, drifting through the landscape like a ghost—as he always has. But trauma and unlikely love and beauty forces him to take a true active role in his life and his surroundings he never dared to before.
Unnerving: Was there a source point of inspiration to write a post-apocalypse tale?
Kane: I don’t think there was a single source of inspiration. Some popular cultural points certainly fanned the flame—the Max Max series, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and even video games like Fallout familiarized me well enough with the tropes, but I think the true inspiration goes much deeper.
Generally speaking, the population is fascinated by not only tales of these sorts, but by apocalyptic news and theory. There’s a sort of cultural obsession with news items that feel like the precursor to something awful—or more awful. The reason for this is simple: life is dull. Especially once you become part of the machine, it’s inescapably dull, filled with mundane responsibilities and unpleasant moments. Shaking things up is attractive (though that attraction would disappear quickly if shit really hit the fan).
All of this definitely influenced the decision to set my tale post-apocalypse. Momentum was further created by how well my themes and characters fit into a dystopian world.
Unnerving: Do you see any aspects of people you know shining through in your characters?
Kane: Other than the narrator… I hope not. I actively tried not to use anyone I knew as models for my characters. It’s possible I took subconscious inspiration from people I’ve known or met. But I’m paranoid about people I know reading my work and saying to themselves, “Um, this is clearly me. Is this what he thinks of me?”.
Having said that, there are unintentional parallels, such as the narrator’s brother who, in certain respects, could very well represent my own brother, because the character is only as fleshed out as his small part requires.
The narrator, though, that’s a different story… He and I definitely see with the same eyes.
Unnerving: What aspects of your life found their way into the story?
Kane: This is a tough question to answer, because there’s so little and so much. I live sheltered and comfortable, so physical parallels are non-existent. But there's a deeper level to my… existence?... that were intensely inspirational.
At times, I’ve described this book when marketing it as my thesis, manifesto, and suicide note. There’s fifteen years of deep theory, personal philosophy, and intense observation—things I always wanted to say, but couldn’t—built into the narrative as themes and moods. That was ultimately my truest intent. I wanted the narrative and the characters to come across true, real and interesting, but in the end, I mostly wanted to evoke thought, emotion, and mood from my readers. I wanted to inspire different perspectives and new cynicisms that are just as relevant now as they would be in a grim, post-apocalyptic decline.
Unnerving: Looking back, is there anything you think you would’ve changed about Decline?
Kane: I’m certain I could have filled out Decline much more. I could probably have tacked on another 200 pages of description, scenario, and side character, I’m sure. Would I change that if I could, though? I don’t think so. As I mentioned, I had a certain intent related to theme and mood, and if I had decided to try and inflate my word count a great deal, I would have had to go all the way back to the drawing board with my minimalist plot and probably completely re-structure and re-shape book to be interesting for double the length.
Going off on a slight tangent: in terms of style, I was influenced by Salman Rushdie (specifically The Ground Beneath Her Feet). It seemed like every paragraph he wrote was its own poem. I wanted the same thing: I want a reader to be able to take almost any random paragraph of Decline and, depending how the lines are cut, it could be poetry. Long answer short, I wouldn’t change anything about Decline. It is its own organism, an became what it was as I intended it to be.
Unnerving: If the apocalypse began unfolding on the long fingers of illness, what would you do?
Kane: Well, I’m not a “prepper”, and I don’t have firearms, so maybe I’m easy meat. But, at least at the start, I think I’m set up pretty well to make it through. I’m fairly solitary, and even at my evil office job, I keep my distance, so I think that, and a generous helping of Purell would see me through the initial stages. I might become someone’s bitch after that, but hey, at that point… it’s a living.
Unnerving: If you were especially resistant, would you try to rebuild and band together, or would you hit the road?
Kane: I’d definitely hit the road. Where I live, I’m not part of a “community”, per se. I don’t think there’d be any banding together here (at least, not that would include me). Plus, I live way up here in the uninhabited reaches of Canada, so I’d probably stand a better chance in the thousands of square kilometres of empty space.
Unnerving: If the apocalypse appeared upon on our species and you were showing signs of sickness, what would you do with, say, your last ten days mobile before the wind went out of you?
Kane: Realistically, I’d probably bear down, drink fluids, get plenty of rest—there must be a certain percentage that survives the virus and I’m probably right in the sweet spot to do that. But maybe I decide I’m done, finished. If the infrastructure is still there, I’m getting out of here. Maybe somewhere tropical where I could see the ocean a final time.
Either that or I’d re-watch Game of Thrones and call it good.
Unnerving: What are you working on now?
Kane: Very recently, I finished the first, rough draft of my next novel, Mya. It’s a meditation on time and regret. It’s romantic and contemporary, but also surreal and apocalyptic—but in a completely different way that Decline is. Mya contains an inspiration that’s been gestating for years, and I’m excited to move into the next stage of editing and polishing, where it’s really going to come alive.
Unnerving: What does your process look like?
Kane: My creative process can vary depending on the product, but my experience writing long fiction is very scattered. I start with a theme and a particular mood that I want to convey—that’s the most important thing to me personally—then I try to develop the plot to accomplish that goal (if I don’t already have something percolating).
What I’ve found is that the different drafts of a novel I go through can look dramatically different from the finished product, and from each other. For instance, for Decline, I had drafts that included a good deal more action. One draft had a heavy psychological bent. But what it came down to was that theme, mood, and motif that I originally started with: I looked at those drafts and thought to myself, ‘this isn’t where I wanted to go’, and from there, subsequent drafts took it where I wanted it to go.
To some degree, I’d say that that process is rooted in my inexperience in writing long fiction, but Mya seems to be developing the same way, so perhaps it’s just how I work.
Unnerving: Is there a trope you’d like to test your hand at in the future?
Kane: If there’s an obvious direction I’d go, it’s straight horror in the style of HP Lovecraft, of whom I’m a great fan. This might be easier in the sense that I wouldn’t be trying to convey a complex emotion or mood, but rather the more primitive inclination to be afraid. I say ‘easier’ now, but I’m sure writing horror has its own pitfalls and difficulties of which I’m not currently aware.
Having said that, the most random, unlikely idea I have for a future project is a children’s book. When I was perhaps eighteen, I worked with a friend to write a long poem that was deliberately infantile and surreal, and the way it came it, we felt it would make a tremendous children’s story. The problem there, though, is it would require an artist. I’ve done some drawing and painting in my time, but I wouldn’t be capable of doing illustrations.
Unnerving: What’s next for Jared Kane?
Kane: More readers, I hope. That’s all I want: readers. It’s a slow burn. I don’t write—and don’t want to write—easily accessible fiction, so finding like-minded and like-souled people to experience the same thing reading my work as I experienced conceiving it is very difficult. But I think they’re out there, and that it’s possible. It’s just going to take as much work on the back end as it took on the front.
I would like to thank Jared Kane for taking the time to speak with me.
Jared Kane is a writer and an artist. The looseness of those labels will be yours to decide, and he is satisfied with whatever you come up with. His day job is digging ditches, 6' x 6' x 6', then filling them in again. A degree in English prepared him well for this rewarding work. When he's not in the trenches is when he does his writing and his art.
Over the years, he's found himself more and more interested in physics and science and technology, and the philosophy and subversion of these things. He tries to weave these things into his writing. WEBSITE AMAZON TWITTER