William Jensen grew up in California and Arizona. He now lives in Texas, and his work has been published in various journals. In 2011, he was nominated for a Pushcart. Mr. Jensen is currently working on a novel.
Amoskeag: The 2012 issue has come to be known as the “Identity” issue; in what way does your work deal with “identity?”
William: I think all my work has to deal with character, specifically those moments that forge a character’s identity in stone, not just epiphany but the real buckshot flash of awe and devastation, the episodes that stick on a person’s skin like a tattoo. I think the best stories are those that might as well begin with “This is what changed everything.” At least those are the ones I like to read.
Amoskeag: In developing your main and supporting characters, how do you see them losing or finding themselves?
William: People prove who they are in the crucial moments, that’s when they get naked. I think the men and women who find themselves in my fiction are tough good people who are trying to hold onto the one last pure and decent thing in their lives. They’re fighters. But they’re sensitive at the core. You can learn a lot about yourself in those times of crisis. But you may not like what you learn.
Amoskeag: What is the one line, the one sentence in your piece that for you sums up the meaning of “identity?”
William: I’m not really sure how to answer that one. I guess it depends on whose identity we’re talking about. There is one crucial scene in “Kingdom of Heaven” where the reader sees who Jesse Copland really is but I like to think that first line, “My stepfather died in prison,” says a good deal about both the narrator and his stepfather. Readers will have their own thoughts on how “identity” plays out in the story.
Amoskeag: How do you identify yourself as a writer — how did you get here? Who/what made you so? Where have you come from? What have you gone through?
William: Man, you are bringing out all the big guns out, aren’t you. Well, I always, always, always wanted to be a writer. I was always writing stories as a kid, and I read just about every book I could get my mitts on. Most writers tend to go through a certain baptism by fire and I’m no different. I imitated this guy one week, some other guy the next. I lost several years of my life trying to live like one writer who will remained unnamed. I moved around a lot, I worked a lot of crap, manual labor jobs. The general ass-kicking you get when you’re young and hungry. I got my first rejection letter when I was about seventeen, and I got my first two acceptance letters back to back when I was twenty-nine. It was a tough time. But hey, if it was easy then everyone would be doing it.
Amoskeag: What lies ahead for you?
William: All I can think of now is that old saying that if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans. I’m working on a novel. I’ve written several novels before and they were all pretty bad, but I think this book is going to be something special. I’m really excited about it, and I hope to find an agent in the near future. For right now? I’m just trying to write, put food on the table, and stay out of trouble. Too much trouble out there already.
To view an excerpt of William’s short story “Kingdom of Heaven,” click here.