- Jason Eaton
- 32 years old
- Grew-up in New City, NY; now lives in Greenwich Village
How did you spend your Election Day—we're guessing it wasn't so good, given that Lloyd Grove reported last week that you put your citizenship up on eBay (second item). How was that decision made, and did your wife have any say in it?
I spent the whole night in my apartment, biting my nails, yelling at the television, and dreading the inevitable. I woke up the next morning in utter shock, like pretty much everyone else here. The worst part is knowing that we won’t be able to change things (for the better at least) for four years. Our only hope now is a good old fashioned blowjob scandal.
When I listed my U.S. citizenship on eBay I was just doing it to get out my own disgust and frustration. The election’s over. We lost. There’s nothing else we can do except resort to unapologetic immaturity. My wife Lisa, who is a godsend, has a high tolerance for said immaturity. As soon as I told her what I was going to do she got excited and proceeded to call me every ten minutes until it was posted. I’m proud that my kids will be full wise-asses.
Were you going to pick up citizenship someplace else, so as not to risk living in airports?
Well, we’ve alienated nearly every nation out there so the pickin’s are slim. I guess it’s either Israel, England or Scarborough Country.
You’re working on a YA novel now. How was it that you started writing for younger audiences?
In 1997, when Clinton was still the “Teflon president” I co-wrote a political satire called Chelsea Clinton’s Freshman Notebook with three-and-a-half other democrats. It was really funny until Monica Lewinsky came along. Then I think we all felt pretty sheepish. I decided to write children’s books as penance. Writing The Day My Runny Nose Ran Away was the literary equivalent of ten “Hail Mary”s and a half dozen “Our Father”s.
Your novel is called The Facttracker of Traäkerfaxx. How did it come about?
The Facttracker of Traäkerfaxx is about the town where all of the facts of the world come from and what happens when the system breaks down and they decide to sell lies instead. I started writing it after spending a year watching CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and BBC report the exact same story in three completely different ways. The subjectivity of information became a bit of an obsession for a while, and still amazes me. They can’t all be right…or can they?
Given the title, it sounds like there will be a lot of word play—do you find that works best? And if not, what is it that kids best respond to? Do you run focus groups on small children?
There’s not all that much word play in it—more of just an attention to the rhythm of the language. I honestly have never really talked to kids about what they like. I just write what I wanted to read at that age—books that are fantastical and funny.
Exactly what qualifies you to interact with children?
I used to be one.
What age group do you target? And based on your experiences, is it easier/ better/ more fulfilling to write for children than for people your own age?
With picture books, 4-8, with novels, 8-11. Kids have (generally) read far fewer books than adults, so there’s still some magic and mystery left for them. Plus, most of the people my age are just starting to have their own kids, so in a way I end up writing for both groups.
What were you like between the ages of 8-12?
Sheltered. Very sheltered. With a HUGE Jew-Fro.
What were some of the influential titles of your youth?
Almost all of the books I loved came out of a great little period in children’s book publishing from around 1968-74. They were all quirky, smart, and probably drug-induced but they were amazing. I’ve never met anyone who’s heard of any of them but if you can find them you should absolutely buy them: The Neon Motorcycle, A Trip to Lazibonia, The Day that Monday Ran Away, The Rainbow Rider, Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World, The Adventure’s of Phoebe Zeit-Geist (not for kids, but I found it anyway).
Then, of course, there are the tried and true classics: The Phantom Tollbooth; Free To Be You and Me; Pretty much anything by Roald Dahl.
How do you keep your creative juices flowing?
I wish I could say that I keep my creative juices flowing by reading the great works of literature and then performing them aloud in my own living room for an audience of stuffed animals. But I think it’s mostly just dark chocolate and coffee.
You previously ran a humor website. What happened to it?
Ah, "The Freedonian." I started it with Ian Lendler, another children’s book author, and reclusive magazine humorist Mike Sacks. It lasted for a couple years, got some great writers from The Daily Show andMcSweeneys, some really nice press in CNN, Time Out, and Gear, and then we pulled the plug. We were just exhausted by the end.
Where do websites go when the die?
They go to Paris, where they’re celebrated as geniuses.
You recently sold an animated script to Fox. Are you targeting the same age group as with your novel?
Sadly, they told me that I can’t discuss the actual film because of the countless spies, moles and trained ninja assassins employed by the competition. But the age group is pretty much the same—targeted to kids but dark and mature enough that adults will enjoy it too.
How does writing for one medium differ from the other? With film, do you have to take parents into consideration as well since they're likely to be in the theater too?
I try to write for adults anyway, so that’s not much of a concern. But there are enormous differences in the process. They’re both fun in their own way, but the books are far more satisfying ultimately. When you sell a book you know that eventually, barring any unforeseen tragedy, you’re going to see it in the bookstore one day. But with the films, when you sell a script it’s only the first step in a soul-crushing process. There’s no guarantee that anyone will ever see the thing that you’ve just put a year of your life into. But that’s the film business for you.
Ten Things to Know About Jason:
What's the best thing you've ever purchased/salvaged off the street?
Roses for my wife at 3AM after I’ve said something imbecilic at 2:45AM.
Which city establishment sees more of your paycheck than you do?
Personality Problem Solving: Would you consider your personality more hysterical or more obsessive, and have you changed since living in New York; has "New York" become a part of you?
Recovering obsessive. I spent the first five years obsessively worrying about NY City germs. The next five years realizing that there are just too many to fight. And now I’ve simply narrowed it down to: don’t touch the subway pole with your bare hands.
NYC Confessional: Do you have a local guilty pleasure?
Johnny Rockets, because I’m such a classy guy.
When you just need to get away from it all, where is your favorite place in NYC to be alone, relish in solitude and find your earthly happiness? (We promise not to intrude.)
The dog run in Washington Square Park. I was going there for years before I even had a dog.
What's one thing you've done (or regularly do) in NYC that you could not have conceived doing anywhere else?
Two years ago I lived in an apartment that was still in the name of the original tenant from the mid-80s It had been illegally sublet so many times that no one even knew whose name the electrical bill was under. Somehow it just got paid.
Assuming that you're generally respectful of your fellow citizens, was there ever a time when you had to absolutely unleash your inner asshole to get satisfaction?
I live on a small island with several million other people, many of whom work on Wall Street. I try not to let the inner asshole get out, because I’m not too sure I’d be able to rein him back in.
Describe that low-low moment when you thought you just might have to leave NYC for good.
Every night when the garbage truck parks in front of my window. I’ll see that garbage truck in hell!
311: Help or hoopla? Have you ever put it to use?
It’s New York. If I’m doing something wrong 500 people will be more than happy to let me know.
There are 8 Million stories in The Naked City. Tell us one, but try to keep it to a New York Minute.
I once saw a rumble between the cast of Seinfeld and three of the four main actresses from Sex and the City. Right on the corner of 12th street and 4th Avenue, just after midnight on the eve of the Emmys. One of the women, I won’t say which, pulled a knife. The next thing I know there’s blood all over the sidewalk and Jason Alexander is screaming “I’ve been cut! The bitch cut me!” at the top of his voice. The cops arrived a few minutes later but it was too late. Jason had lost a lot of blood and he died in the ambulance before they got halfway to the hospital…wait, you didn’t say the story had to be true, did you?
Jason's novel The Facttracker of Traäkerfaxx will be published by Harper Collins in Fall 2005.