My editor at Permuted Press, Felicia A. Sullivan, conducted my second interview about Blood Red not long ago, and today posted it on her Facebook site. I’m posting the interview here with links to her site. Anyone who needs a comprehensive, thoughtful, constructive, reasonably priced edit on a creative work would do well to contact Felicia.
Jason Bovberg, author of newly released novel Blood Red (Permuted Press) had a sit down with me. Well, a write down, at least.
1. The first question is, are you tired of answering the same old questions in interviews?
I’m so high right now, I’m not sure I even understand the question. (Writing from Colorado, sorry.)
2. Have you always wanted to be a writer, or did you just kind of fall into it?
I was writing straight out of the womb. At least, that’s what my dad always told me. (I hesitate to visualize what slimy newborn me was using as a writing utensil.) I have early memories of writing pages and pages of longhand Twilight Zone-inspired stories, which I’d type up and share with classmates and family. I was entering writing contests all through grade school, and then I got serious about it high school, sending my silly tales to horror mags, the editors of which must have thought, Who is this clown? I had little success. It took me a long time to find my voice. I mean, like, 20 years. Sweet Jesus, what have I done with my life?
3. What’s your process? Do you have a set writing schedule, or do you wing it?
I typically write in the late evening. Oh, occasionally the early evening, but usually the late evening, or the mid-evening. Just the early evening, mid-evening, and late evening. Occasionally, early afternoon, early mid-afternoon, or perhaps the late-mid-afternoon. Oh, sometimes the early-mid-late-early morning. But never at dusk!
Apologies to Steve Martin aside, I typically write whenever the hell I can, but that ends up being in the evening after the kids are in dreamland, and also on the weekend, when I can devote a few hours to it. My day job is as a writer/editor, too, so it can be challenging to fire up that computer again to write STILL MORE during my free time. Lucky I live in Colorado!
People always ask whether I write with or without an outline, and the answer—after much experimentation—is that I write with a strange hybrid of both. I don’t want to write with a strict outline laid out, because that takes all the fun and discovery out of the process. At the same time, I don’t want to go completely untethered from any foundation, because I’d end up down some weird tangent in the middle of a fragmented mess. So I jot down a general outline that keeps me in line but allows me to explore and alter the outline as I go, but at the same time, keeps my attention from wandering away from the essential story.
4. What is your favorite genre to read? To write?
I don’t read a lot of straight-out horror, actually. Supernatural horror. My library contains its share of monster novels, sure, but I tend to gravitate to crime novels, which these days are horror novels in disguise. Perhaps I prefer reading about human monsters—a trend in crime fiction that was jumpstarted by The Silence of the Lambs, one of my all-time favorite novels. (Unfortunately, Thomas Harris stopped writing original novels, preferring instead to wade through oceans of Hannibal Lecter cash, mining the same character ad nauseum.) I read a lot of Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, Tom Piccirilli, and Michael Connelly. And although my Stephen King reading has waned, I still gobble up the occasional Joe R. Lansdale. (I loved his recent The Thicket.) But really I like all kinds of modern fiction. I just finished Andy Weir’s The Martian and got a total kick out it.
But it is horror that I love to write. Call it a catharsis, call it my way of dealing with the daily stresses of this corporate, suburban existence, but writing a kick-ass horror scene is like hot yoga for me. A lot of sweat and pain and dislocated limbs, but what a transcendent feeling afterward! My apocalyptic-horror writing is inspired by a few authors I should mention. First is Alden Bell, whose The Reapers Are the Angels is a masterpiece in the genre—an exquisitely written post-apocalyptic narrative from the point of view of a young girl. There’s also Robert Devereaux, whose Deadweight taught me great lessons about extreme horror and the heartbeat that should pound beneath it. And I always go back to a Richard Lee Byers story called “Office Space,” a tale that creeped me out beyond measure in a very quiet, no-nonsense way. I try to aspire to all these types of horror fiction.
As with any writer, there’s a ton of crap in my past, excrement that I sent out to prospective agents and publishers but really should have remained locked away and categorized as “never-see-the-light-of-day learning experiences.” It wasn’t until my thirties that I wrote a pretty cool little pulpy noir called The Naked Dame, inspired by the Hard Case Crime line of books. That has been mildly successful, and it was the first book that I was actually proud of. Still am. I love the character and the voice.
And that book was a big deal for me, as far as my evolution as a writer is concerned. I learned a lot about the process of writing long-form fiction, as well as the particulars of structure and narration. In fact, if you read it, you’ll be able to see how it directly inspired the pace and structure (if not the narration) of Blood Red.
6. How do you spend your time when you are not writing? Do you have any interesting hobbies?
Fatherhood is a time-consuming endeavor, and I comprehensively dig it. Those kids rock my world. They’re hilarious and challenging. I’ve got a daughter about to enter high school, and I think I wrote the main character of Blood Red as my way to deal with that. Oh yeah, my eldest is a teenager in every sense of the word. And she’s just 13! I have 6 more years of this?!
Beyond family, let’s see. Well, I’m quite a movie nerd. Home theater is a huge deal for me. So is my library. I collect modern first editions, ever since I managed a bookstore earlier in my career. I also love to listen to LPs. So, yeah, actual books, physical books, as well as real record albums, and yes, movies on disc. I’m a nostalgic traditionalist when it comes to physical media. I need the hard copy. I’ll never be comfortable with the Kindle or the iPod or streaming movies. I like to be able to hold art in my hand, not for it to flit ephemerally past my eyeballs.
7. Does your family support your writing dreams/career/goals?
Ain’t it grand to have a support system in your own home, people who get all giddy, right alongside you, with each new development in a writing career? It’s such an odd thing, being a writer. It’s often misunderstood, devalued, belittled. One of my favorite things in this world is when my daughter brags to her friends that her daddy is a writer. And on the other side of that equation, I’m proud to be building inside them a love and appreciation and respect for the craft.
That all comes from my dad, who passed away recently. He was the ultimate supportive parent and my loudest cheerleader, and the man who instilled in me the same lessons I’m handing down to my girls. I’ve dedicated Blood Red to him.
I’ve written three and am just beginning a fourth. The first was the aforementioned The Naked Dame, the second was Blood Red, and the third is the sequel to Blood Red, called Draw Blood. These Permuted Press books are quickly becoming my favorites simply because of how they’re evolving. I actually equate them with the Lord of the Rings series. (Yes, I have written the apocalyptic-horror equivalent of the epic Tolkien classics. Nothing less.) And I say that in the sense that I envision this Blood trilogy as one long horror/action saga almost belatedly broken into three chapters. One novel really does feed into the next. It’s a big, exciting experiment for me that I hope pays off: It’s the story of the End of the World, told in real time, from shifting perspectives, in present tense. It’s epic, and yet it’s intimate in scope. And its lifeblood is a father-daughter relationship at its core.
9. Do you read reviews of your books? How do they affect you, whether positive or negative?
Let’s just say I’m not looking forward to reading that first bad review. I’m sure it’s inevitable. And then I’ll have to expend resources hunting that person down and exacting revenge, when I really should be spending that time writing the next book.
As for the positive reviews … well, those are what it’s all about, right? Those get to the heart of why we write in the first place. The best ones are affirming, motivating, and inspiring in all the right ways.
10. You know the last question always is: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? So yeah, answer that, but then tell us (whether you write in the genre or not) your plan for riding out the zombie apocalypse.
Hell, I’m still an aspiring author, so I was gonna ask you! I doubt I have much to add to this body of knowledge that other, far more accomplished writers have said, but as someone who has been in some kind of publishing for 20 years—and as someone who can see the industry changing before his eyes—I think too often the answer is wrapped up more in social media than actual craft. “Establish your brand! Market yourself!” It’s a sad thing to say, but quantity and marketing seem to be more important than quality these days. I sometimes feel as if it’s more important that I hone my persona on Facebook, amp up to impossible levels of activity on Twitter, and make my website thrilling and perfect before I even begin writing!
Let’s face it: We’re competing now with a horde of both self-published and traditionally published writers who are all clamoring for their share of attention, and a lot of them are throwing every single piece of their writing onto Amazon, from dashed-off stories to first drafts of short novels. It’s a morass. For that reason, yes, it’s essential that writers wade into the social-media ocean and trumpet whatever makes them unique. BUT! Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to FIRST put the extra effort forward to fashion a tale that shines like a diamond, standing out from the rest for its sheer quality. Its brilliance. You do that by relying on peer groups, writer’s groups, workshopping, and so on. And it doesn’t end there. Gather trusted (not just fawning) readers of your later drafts, readers who offer substantive criticism. Hire an editor. Do your due diligence!
THEN you can focus on marketing. Don’t build the brand first. Build your craft. You owe that to not only yourself but to the community and the world.
And hidden in that answer is the answer to how to survive the (equivalent of the) zombie apocalypse.