The trip from Bainbridge Island to Spokane is more than a five-hour drive but it’s a breeze for Jonathan Evison. The veteran author has made the scenic trek on more than 50 occasions dating back to his high school days.
“Back then, during the ’80s I had a girlfriend, who lived in Spokane and I would make that 280-mile drive every weekend,” Evison said while calling from his Bainbridge Island home. “I would drive across the desert stoned all the way across the state. I have so many great memories from those days.”
It sounds like grist for a novel but Evison typically doesn’t follow the old axiom which is to write what you know.
Most of his 19 novels, including his latest, “Again and Again,” which is about an octogenarian in a nursing home, who makes some wild claims, require considerable research and creativity.
“Some writers love digging up facts in books but I hate that,” Evison said. “What I do is go to the experts with specific questions. I know the scene I want to write. But how will the material serve the scene? If I’m writing a scene with a dentist then I walk the dentist through the scene since I don’t want to hit any false notes.”
Evison, 55, has researched how those living in their twilight years in other books, such as 2015’s “This is Your Life, Harriett Chance!” – which is about a widow dealing with the death of her husband.
“Maybe I’m preparing myself for idyllic old age,” Evison said. “But I do like to write about the marginalized and the elderly are marginalized.”
The New York Times bestselling author will discuss “Again and Again,” its protagonist Geno Miles and more with Spokesman-Review columnist Ammi Midstokke on Tuesday for a Northwest Passages event at the Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center.
Miles and his new nursing assistant are having issues connecting, Miles insists he has led many lives going back to medieval Spain where he lucked into true love only to lose it.
“It wasn’t easy finding stuff about 11th century Spain,” Evison said. “Much of what I did with this book was an exercise in imagination. I offer the reader a fun ride and I try to keep them off balance with this emotional evocation about enduring love and trauma.”
The prolific married father of three children has published three novels since 2021, and has two new novels in the pipeline, since he’s always writing.
“I’m not lazy, but a lot of authors are lazy,” Evison said. “I write every day. If you write 2,000 words a week, then you have 100,000 words a year.
“After writing 19 books, it gets a little easier. I’m always thinking about what I’m working on. I make little notes and it adds up to 40 hours of work each week.”
Evison’s novels are varied and vivid. Fans often believe Evison is an expert on most subjects due to the content of his novels.
“But I don’t know everything,” Evison said. “If I write about the transcontinental railroad, what I come up with is due to the research. But those details make the books work. The devil is certainly in the details and much of that comes from research.”
However, Evison’s debut, the compelling coming of age novel “All About Lulu,” was primarily based on personal experience and was written as a first person narrative. “Lulu,” which won the Washington State Book Award, is a novel that revolves around a family of bodybuilders.
“My father was a professional bodybuilder,” Evison said. “My brother was a bodybuilder and then there was me, who hates gyms. Bodybuilding is a metaphor for self improvement.”
“Lawn Boy,” from 2018, is a first-person work about a young adult who is barely scraping by as a landscaper.
“I did the same kind of work and was raised in poverty,” Evison said. “So I drew from my own experiences.”
“Lawn Boy” has been the target of controversy and censorship. In 2022, the American Library Association reported it was the seventh-most-banned book in the country due to its LGBT content and sexually explicit text.
“At the end of the day, new life was breathed into a 5-year-old book,” Evison said. “That (controversy) helped me connect with younger readers, so that did my book a service. Most readers are college educated women from 35 to 85 so that ended up working out for me since younger readers ended up buying the book.”
Prior to becoming a novelist, Evison fronted the Seattle punk band March of Crimes, which also featured future Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard and future Soundgarden bassist Ben Shepherd, during the late ‘80s.
“We were just a footnote in the history of Seattle music,” Evison said.” It was a different time. Seattle wasn’t cosmopolitan like Vancouver. It was this cultural backwater city during the ‘80s.”
Evison would escape to Spokane, which he looks forward to revisiting.
“I’ve never had a bad time in Spokane,” Evison said.
Look for Evison at the Old Spaghetti Factory.
“We don’t have a Spaghetti Factory in Seattle anymore so whenever I go back to Spokane that’s where I eat,” Evison said. “I love the comfort food at the Spaghetti Factory. It reminds me of when I was a kid and all we could afford in terms of dining out was going to the Spaghetti Factory.
“Spaghetti is a popular food that everyone can agree on. The experience takes me back to when I was a kid. It was that rare time I knew that I was going to have dessert. I loved getting spumoni.”
Evison also connects with his childhood, courtesy of his three young children, who are ages 6, 10 and 14.
“Life is forcing me to be a younger man,” Evison said. “It’s tough, because I’m starting to feel old.”