A young J.M. Surra researches
Monson, Maine - 2006
J.M. Surra on Barren Mountain
J.M. Surra grew up near Chatham, NY, surrounded by a unique assortment of area writers, musicians, and regular folks.
Just a stone's-throw from Woodstock in one direction, and West Stockbridge in the other, the cast of real-life
characters that populated his corner of Columbia County ranged from the slightly unusual to the unapologetically flamboyant.
By their very nature, such intriguing individuals encouraged J.M. to use his imagination and explore his farthest-reaching trains of thought. As one might expect, J.M. also encountered those who felt otherwise, and there were several of his young friends who refused to play with him because he "always told such big stories." Were his big stories really lies?
J.M. shrugs and says, "It's a common situation for those of us bound for futures as fiction writers. They were stories. Some big. Some little. Of course some were fiction. I didn't know it at the time, but I was honing my craft. I once asked a guy named Louey how he painted cars so beautifully, and he answered, 'Well, it's really all just paying attention to the details."
Indeed! What is fiction but well-told lies, always paying attention to the details? Good stories require investment and imagination on the parts of the listener AND the storyteller. The sad fact is that, wherever we go, we meet folks who lack imagination; those who can't understand why some of us push back the boundaries of truth, who can't fathom why we explore that ethereal realm beyond simple truth.”
J.M. winks, “Let’s just say that those particular lads probably never grew to become avid fiction readers. That's not wrong, per se; we each find and follow our own path. I'm sure they found fulfilling careers doing something that doesn't require imagination or inspiration.”
His life's path has taken him through the most beautiful parts of our great nation. He first settled in rural Maine, where the scenic beauty and the unassuming honesty of the locals seized him by the heartstrings. There he stayed and lived happily for 25 years.
So often it happens that such good things come to an end. In 2008, J.M. moved away and left Maine behind him. Since then, he has lived first in San Antonio, Texas, and then Lakewood, Washington, before making his final move to the Tensaw-Mobile Delta section of Alabama, on the Gulf of Mexico. There, much like Maine, he enjoys the rural outdoor environment, and the solitude a writer so often seeks. Both Texas and Washington State had large, burgeoning populations, making it difficult to achieve that feeling of solitude.
He says, "We all seek something. And while we seek whatever it is, we have to keep earning a living, and in my case, strike a balance between finding a good job and having few enough people around me that I can find some peace and hear my own thoughts."