Ginger Nuts of Horror
Fresh from recent critical successes with novellas Jedi Summer and Detritus In Love (co-written with Bram Stoker award winning author Mercedes Murdock Yardley), we thought it was high time we got caught up with author (and Gingernuts contributor) John Boden to find out more about his recent output, writing process, and upcoming projects.
Gingernuts of Horror: We’ll get to the new and upcoming releases, but I’d like to catch up w ith you first about Jedi Summer, if that’s cool. Because that was my novella of last year, and the wider critical response seems to have been very good. How have you found the release?
John Boden: I'm thrilled that it's done well and people like it. It's no secret that I was a bit worried about it initially. I wrote it as a present for my little brother. I hadn't originally sought to publish it. It was sent to a publisher who held interest and then it sat idle for a year before I sent it to Eric at Post Mortem. He liked it and took it and I still worried. This thing is not a traditional story, has very little action or linear narrative and runs mainly on the cool breeze of emotional nostalgia. All that said, it's been quite humbling to see it so well-liked and hearing so many people say that it really brought them back to their childhoods-good and bad.
GNoH: I also have to ask - I know it was largely autobiographical - how did it feel putting so much of yourself out there in that way?
JB: It felt both freeing and bit like I was being an asshole. I mean, we tend to feel that everything that we experience is solely ours and while it is, it also isn't. I worried that I put too much out there. Most of my family are pretty private people, a lot of friends too. There are also people and events that really happened that I very barely camouflaged. Since no one has punched me in the face or harassed my family, I guess I worried for nothing.
GNoH: Do you find a similar thing with your fiction? I’ve found people almost never recognize themselves in a book, even when it feels blatant to me as a writer…
JB: I'm not sure, I really don't have all that much out there yet. I make no secret that I often staff my work with friends. nearly every character being based in some way on a friend or family member. Hell, often times I don't even change names.
GNoH: How was the process of writing Jedi? Did you find yourself struggling to remember parts, or did it flow very naturally? And how did you decide what to tell and what to leave out?
JB: It was originally written as a short story, called "The Magnetic Kid", this flash piece ended up as a chapter in Jedi Summer, but once I started going and the memories started flowing it went really smoothly. There were things I left out and there were many liberties taken with those I didn't. It's like that Adam Sandler movie, The Wedding Singer. That movie was set in 1985 or 86, but they crammed a million references to all manner of 80's shit in there. I did the same sort of thing. I like having people try to guess what was true and what was not. I could put other things in there. Maybe one day I will expand it or collect some more material in another thing. It only recently struck me that my story, "Possessed By A Broken Window" [which appeared in Lamplight Magazine, Volume III- Issue III-- is actually a "Johnny & Roscoe" story. So I could probably do it. Speaking of that story, Jacob Haddon and Apokrupha Press are plotting to bring a "radio treatment" of "Possessed By A Broken Window" to the masses sometime in the future.
GNoH: A Jedi sequel would be amazing! Or would it be a prequel? The Phantom Summer? :D
JB: I'm not sure if it would be a sequel or prequel. Possibly just an expansion with further recollections and such. I'll wait a while and see what happens. I can say that Jedi Summer is being translated for a German edition at the moment. that's a pretty nifty thing to have happen.
GNoH: Your writing has a lyrical quality - poetic, yet grounded and unpretentious. Where do you think that voice comes from? Who do you think of as your prime influences?
JB: I can't say where the style came from, I mean a lot of places. I began writing in school, after being inspired by Stephen King, Bradbury and Louis L'Amour. I started writing and wrote pretty pathetic Stephen King fan fiction or terrible pulp stories. King was one of the first writers that I read, you know "adult-type" material. And I loved it. I will still claim his importance. No one writes characters like he does. I always loved his simpler work (his middle years stuff is pretty bloated and hard-to-take at times), but those first dozen or so novels I recall vividly, and I've not read them in decades. So yeah, I stopped writing after graduating and didn't actively start again until Shock Totem started, almost 20 years later. Now, during that time, I read a lot. Discovering and devouring anything from Joe Lansdale or Robert McCammon, while also taking in William Burroughs, James Havoc and Th. Metzger. I also owe as much influence to music as anything - it was always playing - my parents, though split, both loved music and I got a steady diet of classic hard rock, early metal, folk and country music. I always paid close attention to lyrics and used to read album liner notes like most kids read Highlights. I almost think that stuff -- all of that stuff--sort of got stuck in my "creative craw" and waited for me to decide to write again because when I came back to it, I found myself writing in a simple and clear voice but with an (I've been told) unique sense of description. It's just how I write.
GNoH: The songwriting influence is very interesting to me. Who do you think of as master storytellers in terms of lyricists? And what about that form of storytelling appeals to you?
JB: Alice Cooper always told great stories, I'm well aware that a lot of those songs were co-written by others or by outside writers, but I loved them. Rolling Stones have some great songs...any song can be a story if you listen right. I grew up loving old story song country--"Ruby Don't Take Your Love To Town," "Psycho," "Phantom 309." So many...The Drive-By Truckers and a band called I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch In The House are both fantastic at gritty and seedy everyday dark dramas. I can't put a finger on what exactly appeals to me other than I tend to like concise. I like to eat fast and not have to chew much.
GNoH: moving on to Detritus In Love , can you recall how that project came about?
JB: Way back, when Mercedes Yardley worked with me at Shock Totem, I had written a flash piece called "The Thief, She Cried." I asked her to read it as we always sent each other our stuff to scope. She liked it and I told her I was thinking of expanding it somehow. I asked if she wanted to do it with me and she said of course. We decided outright on no strict timeline or hard deadlines. We'd write when we could, as much as we could. So three years and some change later, we had a very dark almost fablesque tale of a strange boy, his ghost pals and a dark enemy approaching. It's title was originally "Loving The Girl With X's For Eyes" but Laird Barron put out a book around the same time and we decided to change it, so Detritus In Love it became. One of the best comments we get is that people can't distinguish our voices--it reads seamless. We're pretty proud of it and have talked a tiny bit about possibly going back one day.
GNoH: I’d agree with that, it really did feel like one voice. What did you enjoy about the collaborative process? What did it teach you about your own writing?
JB: I really enjoyed the lack of anchor. I liked that it almost felt like, remember being a kid when you wrote to a pen pal or a friend (like wrote a letter, stamped it and chucked it in the post) and you'd wait but then forget or become distracted by life and then it a response would arrive and it was like a magical interruption to the daily hum-drummery? It was like that. I'd write a bit and send it off and a week or three would float by before she sent back something or vice versa. I think it taught me how to pick up cues, intended or otherwise as we went with no clear plot plan or outline, just wrote our way out of it.
GNoH: I’d also like to touch on your recent Double Barrel Horror release - two very dark tales. ‘There Will Be Angels’ is both horrifying and heartbreaking - can you recall now what sparked the central premise of this story?
JB: That one came from the old Shock Totem Saturday night flash challenge. I believe the picture was a black and white still of girls on a wall. It was surreal and creepy and this is what I wrote during the given hour. It's strange and sad.
GNoH: It seems like that flash fiction challenge spawned a lot of interesting work! Do you have any other stories that came from that challenge? Is it ongoing, and if not are there any plans to revive it?
JB: The monthly story challenge saw a lot of good new writers (many who have gone on to much acclaim) as winners. The bi-weekly flash contest saw a lot of stories go on as well. I can't remember but I think my story "Down By The Ocean" (Splatterpunk #5) started as one of these. The challenge is no more I think. It was held on the ST forum and I had turned over moderating privileges to others long ago.
GNoH: As for ‘Marlene The Magnificent’ - wow! Do you have any ‘red lines’ - areas you won’t write about in fiction - or do you think any subject is fair game?
JB: Heh. I don't usually write sex, graphic or otherwise in my stuff. Not that I'm a prude, I just don't get there in the way I tell my tales. Marlene was different. A co-worker once remarked that she'd had to have her children via c-section because "her vagina wasn't magic," and so the rest of that work day I found myself thinking about what it might be like were a woman to have a magic vagina...and of course, that went to a weird place and this is what happened. It's probably the closest to bizarro that I've gotten outside of some micro-flash I have. It's not at all like most of what I've done. As for any subject being fair game, why not? I mean if it happens for real we can talk about it--write about it, right? Shit isn't going to go away if we pretend it doesn't happen. That line of reasoning has been a time-tested failure.
GNoH: I’ve enjoyed your short fiction work a great deal - Night Games in Blight Digest springs to mind as a brilliant slice of dark nasty - are there any plans for a short fiction collection at some point?
JB: One day maybe. I'd definitely need to write more stories. Most of what I have that hasn't been published is flash fiction. So I guess the short answer is yes, at some point.
GNoH: And I understand we’ve got another novella release coming up soon. What can you tell us about Spungunion?
JB: Spungunion is coming out 31st October I am extremely proud of it and the folks who've read it in beta stages or to possibly give me a blurb for it have all dug it. Spungunion is set in the early 80's and revolves around a trucker named Deke. His wife was murdered and he's spent the last year allowing his grief and anger devour him. He is finally offered a little help by his boss who puts him in touch with another trucker named Tiny. Tiny holds a special job description which allows him to call some very...um...otherworldy contacts out for favors. As Deke meets with bizarre beings and begins to assemble perceived clues as to the killer of his wife, he finds that most of the time what we seek to find and what we are really looking for are rarely the same. I wrote this from a very personal place concerning grief and its weight but also as a tribute to Joe R. Lansdale. He's been a huge influence and I have always enjoyed his wild characters and uniquely strange settings.
GNoH: As one of those lucky beta readers, I’d say that for me one of the huge strengths of this story is how it plays in the liminal spaces between reality and dark fantasy. How do you approach works with a more supernatural element to them? Do you find writing that kind of story affects your style or process?
JB: Honestly, I don't really think much about it. I just write what I write and however it goes, it goes. That's probably a shitty answer but it's the truth. Sometimes, most times, it begins around a scene or a character and then spreads from there. I just start and stop and see what it looks like when I decide it's time to stop for real. I'm a very undisciplined writer. I don't have a routine or set schedule. I've been trying harder to adopt one of those but my day job schedule is kind of terrible and I've found that if I try and force creativity when I'm brain tired or just plain old tired, the outcome is less than favorable.
GNoH: Thanks so much for your time, man. In closing, what do you have in the pipeline after Spungunion drops? What do the rest of 2017 and beyond hold for John Boden?
JB: I'm somewhere past the midpoint on a quietly odd western called Walk The Darkness Down. I have the second "not-really-for-children" children's book written and am working with artist Chris Enterline on the illustrations. This one is about a haunted house. Chris is amazing. He and I have recently started a series of one panel things called "Quick & Dirty" which is a single panel drawing that pairs with a micro-flash story of mine. Those will be fun. I have several other collaborative projects looming. None I really want to call out yet as it's way too early. There's a German edition of Jedi Summer coming soon from Phrenetic Press. I think it'll be titled Sommerland. A couple of stories in forthcoming anthos. And you're most welcome. thank you for asking me to babble.
Spungunion: (pronounced: Spun-Gun-Yun) noun; 1.) a dish made from rotting road kill, usually a skunk or a opossum. The more fragrant or maggoty, the better. 2.) Something that's been on the road for a long and unfortunate time...
This is the story of Deke Larch, a widowed trucker who has lost everything and is struggling to find his place in a world and the person who took it from him. That journey puts him in touch with strange characters and bizarre places. Deke had always felt like he operated on the fringe of society, but he really had no idea...his journey will teach him that monsters are interpretive and sometimes what we think we want is not what we seek at all.
Spungunion is a story about grief and loss, about lonely roads and lost souls, about failure to let go and falling when you finally do. It's about livin' and dyin' and how sometimes the difference between is very slight.
“This trucker’s tale of bloody revenge and harrowing self-illumination takes place in the deepest, strangest veins of the Twilight Zone’s midnight highways. Boden rolls his supernatural mystery down the blacktop surface of the road to Hell, and you’re gonna love the journey into the fire.” – Philip Fracassi, author of Behold the Void, Fragile Dreams and Altar.
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