Q&A: Behind the Writing

Did you always know you wanted to write?

I didn’t make a serious attempt at creative writing until I was 26. I guess that makes me a late bloomer, but it was well worth the wait.

Is this novel based on personal experience?

Absolutely not. I’m a product of the public school system, so the elite boarding school scene is about as remote from my upbringing as you can get. But I think that was part of the allure.

If not from personal experience, then where did the idea for The Keeper of Dawn come from?

It started with a single line:

Reform school novel about growing up in the shadow of overly ambitious parents.

I think I wrote that line after reading about Robin Williams' privileged upbringing in an affluent Detriot suburb. He grew up in a 30-room mansion on a private estate. His father was an automotive exec who spent a considerable amount of time away from home on business trips. He attributed his absence of family life to his creativity, since he was forced to create his own entertainment. I remember thinking how different his upbringing was compared with my own. I believe it was that curiosity that kept my imagination returning to this topic. And it would be curiosity, not experience, that dragged me over the finish line four years later. Battered and bruised, but with a manuscript in hand.

How did you make the time to write a novel?

I worked for a start-up IT consulting company during the downside of the dot-com bubble. Day after day, they paid me to come into the office and do nothing. A few of my colleagues became day-traders to pass the time; I took up writing. I soon found that it was easy to lose myself in my own imagination as corporate America was falling into shambles around me.

Any upcoming projects?

I’m putting on the finishing touches to a travel memoir called Latitudes that’s scheduled to come out next summer (2013). It details a trip my wife and I had the privilege of taking a few years back where we quit our jobs and moved all of our possessions into storage to backpack around the globe. Five continents and seven months later, we returned home with a journal written aboard trains, planes, buses, impossibly small automobiles, feluccas, and overnight ferries.

After that, it’s on to my next novel—Hurricane Charlie—a story of a widower and former composer who tries desperately not to get swallowed whole by his midlife crisis. It takes place at the height of the housing bubble in the New South, where our dear protagonist wrestles with regret, gentrification, and his own flavor of mild racism. While the new generation seems to be forcing Charlie into obsolescence, it’s also the innocence of youth that gives Charlie one last shot at life. Charlie finds himself in a battle of music versus noise, harmony versus chaos, where his only chance of survival depends on preventing himself from being his own worst enemy.

Will there be a sequel?

I think any reader should be wary of a coming-of-age story that has a sequel. That spells trouble.

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One Comment

  1. Reply
    Pam Schmid October 11, 2012

    J.B., I had the good fortune of meeting Meagan S***e yesterday … and she told me about your newly published book. (I have a 4-year-old little boy … he thought Siena was super cool.) I’m finishing up my MFA at Hamline and am always happy to know about other fellow writers who’ve successfully navigated their way into publication. Though we haven’t met, I’m happy for you and wish you all the best!

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