Hey all, here’s an interview I did about LOSER BABY for the fledgling website WriteStart. You can see it in its original form at the WriteStart site. The writer of the interview poses similar questions to various writers, getting various takes on the same subjects, mostly involving background, story, and process. This is one of my first interviews for LOSER BABY.
WriteStart: Welcome! First off, if you could tell a little bit about yourself and what types of stories you enjoy writing as well as which genre(s) you write in?
Jason Bovberg: Hey, Jason Bovberg here, reasonably awesome middle-aged dude heavily into book collecting and film watching and music absorbing, and when I mention those three things, I mean real physical books, and tangible, tactile discs containing all those movies and music albums. I’m still a sucker for physical manifestations of art, man, and so that’s why it’s always a friggin’ kick in the pants to get boxes of my books in the mail, hold ’em in my hand, sign ’em for people. Here I am in my library, surrounded by a dusty book collection, a few old-school typewriters, too, and I’m listening to some old Sidney Bechet on vinyl, and later on, when the workday is done, I’ll probably catch a film noir on Blu-ray.
And that last choice speaks a lot about my favorite kind of stories to write. I love a good piece of pulp fiction, preferably that vintage paperback kind, the musty leaves, the words that jump off the yellowed page. That’s my inspiration for all my writing these days—especially the page-turning neo-noir of LOSER BABY. They always say to write the book that you yourself would most want to read, and I think I’ve done that. It’s just a whole lot of juicy naughty fun.
WriteStart: I’d love to share a bit about your most recent work, LOSER BABY, if you could let our readers know about it?
Jason Bovberg: Imagine you’re in your late teens, and you’re just beginning to figure the world out, but so far in life you’ve been dealt an unfortunate hand. You’re in the middle of an unforgiving urban landscape filled with drugs and nihilism and anger, and your family has crumbled, and you just want to escape. Find a new life somewhere. If, under the unwitting influence of some pharmaceuticals, you suddenly saw a golden opportunity to rip off an old enemy and perform that longed-for escape … would ya?
That’s where LOSER BABY begins, on the streets of southern California. Jasmine Frank steals something from Tommy Strafe, an old bully from school, and that sets in motion a crazy-ass adventure criss-crossing the streets of Santa Ana. The story is told from a dozen unique perspectives, bringing an uncommon degree of empathy to the proceedings. That’s probably the aspect of LOSER BABY that I love the most.
WriteStart: I love noir stories, what got you into writing them in the first place?
Jason Bovberg: My dear departed dad introduced me to Los Angeles and some of the old great film noir masterpieces such as The Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity, and from there I developed a love for the pulp fiction masters, such as Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler. And then that led to the discovery of scads of classic pulp writers. Jim Thompson, Charles Williams, Day Keene, Gil Brewer, Lawrence Block, all the others currently finding a new home at Hard Case Crime.
My first book was THE NAKED DAME, which aped that old style and was set in 1950s Los Angeles. A fun book in its own right, if I do say so myself!
WriteStart: Are there any secrets from the book (that aren’t in the blurb), you can share with your readers?
Jason Bovberg: If you’re a fan of In-N-Out Burger, you’re gonna love LOSER BABY.
WriteStart: Who is your favorite non-mainstream noir author?
Jason Bovberg: Have you ever read Eric Beetner? He’s an unheralded but prolific writer of down-n-dirty noir, just the kind of wild stories that hit my sweet spot. I was lucky enough to interview him for my website not long ago. Check it out: “Eric Beetner Has Been Flying Under Your Crime-Fiction Radar … but Not Anymore”
WriteStart: Where were you born (and/or are you from) and how has that affected your work?
Jason Bovberg: I was born in Southern California, and that’s an extremely important setting in LOSER BABY! I’ve always felt a special kinship with the city of Santa Ana, which is kinda the melting pot of Orange County. I spent a lot of my early years around there. It’s seedy and grimy and sprawling, but it’s also a cultural centerpoint of the entire area, with a funky nightlife and a very diverse population. Sure, the people who live there hardly ever get along, but that pretty much describes the good ol’ USA these days.
WriteStart: Naming characters feels like a chore, how do you go about doing it?
Jason Bovberg: Names are vital to me in my books. I want my characters’ names to be memorable and often unusual, especially for the main characters. I like a name to resonate with the personality, too. In LOSER BABY, I particularly like Jasmine (“Jazz”) Frank as our leading lady, and Tommy Strafe as our main bully. There’s also Rennie Mawk as the evil mastermind, and his greaser son Charlton. All these names really pop for me as a writer, and I think they’re making impressions among early readers.
At the same time, I don’t like to think about names TOO much and risk having them feel unreal or labored. Most of the time, a name will simply flow out onto the page, and I’ll live with it for a while as I write, see if it works. It has to look right, and it has to sound right on the tongue. Sometimes I’ve been known to change a name after the completion of an entire novel because it’s just not singing to me.
WriteStart: What was the first story that you published (and if it was a short story, where?)
Jason Bovberg: My first published story was called “Birds of Prey,” and you can read that on my website. Its first appearance was in THE SPIRES, the literary journal at California State University Fullerton. It’s an apocalyptic horror story that sorta foreshadows my BLOOD trilogy.
WriteStart: Who is your favorite character (both that you’ve written and from any other author out there)?
Jason Bovberg: They always say the bad guys are the most fun to write, and I have to admit I had a blast with both Tommy Strafe and Rennie Mawk in LOSER BABY. But if we’re talking about the character I LIKE the best, that would have to be Jasmine, the main character. There’s just something about a broken character who goes through hell on her way toward redemption. My main character in the BLOOD trilogy, Rachel, goes through a similar journey, actually, but there’s just something extra special about Jasmine. You’ll see.
As far as characters in other books, I’d probably have to go with either Clarice Starling in Thomas Harris’s SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, or Mattie Ross in Charles Portis’s TRUE GRIT, or the young girl named Temple in Alden Bell’s THE REAPERS ARE THE ANGELS, probably the most beautiful apocalyptic horror novel ever written. And you can probably sense a theme in my choices.
WriteStart: Do you have any odd quirks when it comes to your reading or writing?
Jason Bovberg: I’m mostly a bedtime reader, so kinda boring there. As far as writing, I do have a routine, and that’s typically a thousand words a day, written in my library office surrounded by great works of modern literature. I get to that thousand-word mark whether the words come easy or they’re like yanking teeth. And I do it all to the tune of some kind of instrumental music. I love movie soundtracks and Dixieland jazz to keep the spirits high.
WriteStart: Thanks again! Do you have any teases of what you’re working on next that you could hint at?
Jason Bovberg: I have two more crime novels on the horizon. The first is TESSA GOES DOWN, what you might call a “border noir” crossed with a “Midnight Run” chase narrative crossed with a race-tinged “One False Move” showdown thriller. For this book, I’ve combined that noir style with the atmosphere of politicized rage and hate out there today. It deals with post-pandemic attitudes, and the bewildering rise of bad guys over the past five years, and how optimism can die if you don’t nurture it on a big scale.
The other book is called A SMALL POISONOUS ACT, and this is my epic suburban crime story. Like LOSER BABY, it plays with multiple points of view, looking at a neighborhood from disparate perspectives. A little girl, an old man, a cheerleader type, a corrupt local businessman. And what happens when a small crime on a tiny suburban cul-de-sac can escalate into something deadly.
WriteStart: Finally, if there is anything else you would love to share with our readers, please do so here!
Jason Bovberg: I’ll just say that it can be tough to get a seat at the table these days, so I’m thankful for each and every person who pulls a chair up and decides to sample my brainfood.