When Jani Krulc reveals the title of her book The Jesus Year, she is often met with blank expressions. She’ll then explain that it refers to the 33rd year of a person’s life which also was the last year of Jesus’ life. It’s supposed to the happiest and most meaningful for transition and growth.
“I became interested in The Jesus Year as a concept. It’s ironic that Jesus, and by Jesus I mean the historic, cultural figure, died 4 months into his own 33rd year. I became interested in that irony and also the arbitrariness of it. For someone to say: this is the happiest year across the board for most people and also to say this is the year that people should get it together, I’m not sure how useful that is. But for the characters in the book, most of them are at a crossroads of some sort where something will shift. And when there is that momentous occasion, which doesn’t have to be in their 33rd year, something does shift for them and they have to make certain choices.
Jani’s debut book is a collection of short stories she has written within the past years. She has a BA (Hons) in English from the University of Calgary and an MA in English Literature and Creative Writing from Concordia University.
Originally Jani intended for her first book to be a novel, as it was a form she was more familiar with during her creative writing days at U of C and Concordia. But she began to play around with idea of short form fiction when her publisher approached her about the possibility of writing a collection. After having read a large portion of The Jesus Year, I found out more about Jani’s creative processes and how she came up with ideas for her stories.
“It depends. For The Jesus Year, I was curious as to what it would be like to mourn someone who passed in a ridiculous way. With the Evaluators, I was curious about tragedy occurring at a time that’s supposed to be the happiest in a persons’ life. So often a story would start when I ask myself a question, “what if this were to happen? Sometimes, I almost feel as if the narrative already exists and it’s my job to access them and to really understand what is happening to these characters and why they do what they do even if they don’t know, I need to know.”
What’s fascinating about Jani’s journey as a writer is how she transfers the lessons she learns from her other passions. She teaches Ashtanga Yoga and from practicing she learned something that I believe all aspiring writers should follow.
“You do the same practice everyday; some days it’s wonderful and some days it’s terrible. But in order to continue practicing, you have to detach yourself from the results. You have to have faith that something will come from it even if you’re not sure what that is. The practice is the point. When I finished grad school I wasn’t writing a lot. I was adjusting to life as a civilian. And every time I sat down to write something, I wanted magic and I wanted it to be brilliant right away and if it wasn’t I’d be discouraged. As a result, I didn’t write much. But what I’ve learned now is that writing is also the practice. And when I start my next project, I know that I have to write everyday and I just have to accept whatever happens during the hours I give myself. It might be great, it probably won’t be, but I just have to let the story shape itself.
She has been an active figure within Calgary’s creative writing community, which from her experience emphasizes that maintaining close relationship with fellow creative writers is important.
“Being out of school has made me appreciate Calgary and its writing communities because having a day job and paying a mortgage and buying groceries you start to feel kind of alienated from your writing life sometimes. The world isn’t conducive to being a writer or producing art. So having a community is important and we meet every couple of weeks to write and talk. Readings are important too.”
She also derived a lot of motivation and support from those outside of the writing community.
“Of course I’m indebted to my parents, to my partner, to all my friends, and even to those close to me who never read my work, just because they’ve been lovely in my life and have been supportive through various ways.”
During her book launch June 7, Jani read one of her stories The Evaluators. Revisiting it second time struck me personally as it did the first time I read it. Without having to reveal too much I’ll simply say that it’s certainly a funny and bittersweet short story that will be one of my recommended read for a long while.
Many of the book’s stories take place in Canadian cities and I wondered if Jani had planned this.
“When it comes to setting, it’s not about an ideal location. Instead, it’s the places I live in and travel to that infect my writing; I can’t help but place them as locations that I know well. I invented houses and interiors but I know Calgary intimately so it’s natural to find Calgary in my unconscious, swirling around, ready and available.”
Her title story, The Jesus Year, is mainly set in Calgary and it seemed suitable for a story that portrayed a character striving for growth and change. A story worth reading from someone who, during the middle of our interview, put Calgary’s Awesomeness into perspective.
“Calgary is such a new city, a young place, it is also a space where reinvention is possible. Not even just reinventing itself; it is inventing itself, figuring out what it wants to be. So it makes sense that its citizens can also do that. Reinvention is not limited to 33 year old people, it’s possible at any age. Of course it’s easier when you’re young, but it’s always possible. I’m always optimistic.”
The Jesus Year is available at local bookstores and can be found at Pages in Kensington and Shelf Life. Order it online through Amazon.ca or through Insomniac Press.
Pick up a copy! It makes for a wonderful summer read.
Follow and connect with Jani on Twitter @janikrulc