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Interview: Q and A w/Johnny Shaw, on Dove Season, future works, and pretty much anything else I could get him to comment on

Johnny (not John or Jon) Shaw is an author here in good ol’ Portland Oregon. Back in September he launched his first Novel, Dove Season (review). He hit the road touring and speaking, stopped by Wordstock 2011, then hit the road again..
Weary and in dire need of some home time, he was kind enough to set aside some time to BS via email with a fan, answer some questions, and delicately cover his bases so as not to offend his wife and mother.
So read up folks, this is a present from him to us.
If you have not heard of his book, check out some reviews online. Get a feel for it, then go buy the damn thing before you blow your cash on booze smokes fatty-foods internet-pornography Thai-hookers madmax-souvenirs.. or whatever your vice may be.
If you still are not convinced, read this QA again and leave a comment. I will find a way to convince you that will not require band-aids afterwards.
Thanks Johnny for participating :)
Author’s website

JasonB - Warm up question.. Tell me a little about yourself (eg. likes, dislikes, number of bodies you left in the Imperial Valley desert before you skulked off to “School”..)
Johnny - Sorry to disappoint. But if I was more interesting, I?d be writing memoirs. After I left the Imperial Valley, I went to school, got a pile of degrees, wrote some movies and plays, and pretty much did everything I could to lose whatever tiny bit of street cred I ever had (Fun fact: just using the phrase ?street cred? shows you how little I have).
Now, I?m just another Portlander with a beard sitting in a pub writing my swears and violences.

JasonB - How long were you working on Dove Season before you were published? What did you find to be the biggest hurdle in the process? Is there anything you would do over differently?
Johnny - Including all the drafts, Dove Season took me about 15 months to write. I like to write first drafts quickly and do multiple rewrites. Transitioning from screenwriting is a completely different route from short stories.? I was comfortable with the longer story form, but had to really hunker down when it came to the sentence-level.? I tried to play to my strengths and focus on improving what I considered my weaknesses in the writing.
I don?t have a hard luck publishing story. My career as a novelist so far has been pretty straightforward. While I was sending out queries to agents upon completion of the novel, I entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. I ended up being a finalist in that competition, which led to interest from publishers. And here I am.

JasonB - What is your favorite line or two from the book. I have a few, including the entire first page, which grabbed me by the huevos and dragged me into the book.. Angry bunnies do that to me.
Johnny - Thanks, I?ve lost count of the number of drafts that I did on those first four paragraphs.
A lot of people have been calling the book ?quotable?, which is a nice compliment.? I never thought of it that way, but with my screenwriting background, I probably have more of an affinity for the big line. Here are a couple of random sentences that still make me smile:
  • ?If I followed the sounds of the shotgun, I would find a group of drunk-by-noon ?necks sitting in folding chairs on a ditch bank in hundred-degree heat shooting at the bird of peace.?
  • ?It?s kind of an unwritten rule in street fighting not to have your penis exposed.?
  • ?Me, bare-assed naked from the waist down, being chased by a three-legged German shepherd through a sugar beet field. Her, laughing her ass off and making fun of my dangle.?

JasonB - Jimmy from Dove Season has a dad named Pop, and a mom named Barbara, and a trouble making acquaintance named Bobby. My wife’s grandpa is named Pop, his wife is Barbara, brawling grandson is Bobby… all from Imperial Valley/El Centro/Calexico..
Obviously, the book resonated with me :) Should we just invite you in for dinner? Or do you prefer to hang out by the window taking notes [read: tongue-in-cheek]?
As I am sure you will deny chilling outside my house, what do you “claim” the inspiration for the novel?
Johnny - Seriously? That?s crazy.
No writer of fiction should ever reveal where the truths reside within the tapestry of lies (someone find a picture frame, that sentence was classy). Like Jimmy Veeder, the hero of my story, I grew up on a farm in the Imperial Valley across the street from a field worker bar. I?m not going to reveal much more than that.
The names of the characters are usually taken from people I know. I have friends named Buck Buck, Snout, Bobby, etc.. I called my father Pop. However, the characters aren?t taken from those people, they are closer to amalgams or directly from my imagination.

JasonB - “A Jimmy Veeder Fiasco” (as listed on the cover) infers that there will be more novels in the series. Do you have work underway already? The novel was pretty airtight in the end, any teasers regarding what is coming our way? Is Jimmy going to have to repay some high interest debts?
Johnny - Don?t let any marketing chump tell you they came up with ?A Jimmy Veeder Fiasco?.? It was on the original manuscript. As it?s not a mystery or a thriller, I wanted something that defined what I was trying to do. I write fiascoes.
I am finishing up a stand-alone novel set in the California/Arizona desert (big surprise). It?s called BIG MARIA and it?s a big comic adventure about friendship and desperation that I think is funny as hell.
I?ve started the next Jimmy Veeder Fiasco, tentatively titled PLASTER CITY. I like short series, so right now in my mind there will be three Fiascoes. PLASTER CITY will explore Jimmy and Bobby?s relationship in a deeper way, really pushing their friendship to its limits.

JasonB - Writing while sitting in Beulahland has to be some task. It is a great PDX bar, but how can you concentrate with kick-ass pinball, tabletop Ms. Pacman, and great beer so nearby? How do you keep yourself on track?
So what is your Ms Pac high score, anyway?
Johnny - Luckily, I?m not a Ms. Pacman kind of guy. If they had Robotron, I would get no work done.
It?s all about feeling welcome. Being able to go to a place and not get the stink-eye after being there an hour or three. Beulah has always been that place for me. I?m friendly with everyone that works there, but I?m not overly chatty. I tip well and bring in business when I can. I sincerely want the place to do well. People should go there and drink up. The food is great, too. The one thing I don?t want to do is encourage people to go there and drink coffee for hours on end. That?s my job, buster.

JasonB - Writer Spot test- off the top of your head, could you write a new blurb for the back of your book in 50 words or less. Caveat: Please include the words panties and habanero?
Johnny - Dove Season is hotter than a habanero enema. Also, panties!

JasonB - Do you have any books which inspired your work, specific authors or novels you aspire to?
Johnny - James Crumley and Charles Willeford will always make the top of that list. If you don?t know who they are, seek them out. Crumley?s THE LAST GOOD KISS is one of the great modern hardboiled novels, and really showed me that you can entertain while at the same time have some depth when it comes to the characters and story.
I also think that Chester Himes needs to be rediscovered by more people. A RAGE IN HARLEM maintains a breakneck pace that makes most modern thrillers look like they?re in slow motion.

JasonB - Long hand or Laptop? Either way you get carpel tunnel syndrome, so what’s your preference?
Johnny - I usually write my first drafts long hand. Although lately, I?ve been swapping haphazard between the two. It really depends on how well-formed it is in my head.? I rewrite directly into the laptop. It?s just more practical.

JasonB - If optioned for a movie, who would you want to be cast in the parts of Jimmy, Bobby, Angie and Griselda? What scene would you fight tooth and nail to be included as a cameo/extra/bit part?
Johnny - I?m actually supposed to be making this list for practical reasons as I shop the film rights for the book. So any suggestions are welcome.? I am more interested in talent than any physical appearance. Good actors make good movies. It?s got a lot of solid parts for Hispanic actors.
And, yes, I know I didn?t answer the question.
I would love to play the character of the old barfly Squatty (although if I were adapting the screenplay I would probably cut that scene). Films take so long to make that I think I might be old enough by the time it shoots to play haggard.

JasonB - Hardcover, Trade paper, Mass-market paper, eBook? What’s makes the difference for you regarding format?
Johnny - Don?t care. No writer should. Anything that connects writers and readers is a good thing. I read in all formats. The only thing that I?m not too hot for is reading off a lighted screen, like my computer. I do that enough throughout the day that I?d rather not when I?m trying to relax.

JasonB - Have you ever been beaten up in a seedy Mexicali bathroom? It just seemed, you know, like there was some honest to god experience driving that. If so, you are a damn genius and I hope I never need to use similar survival tactics…
Johnny - See my [earlier] preface [..]. My imagination and memory have become so fluid that I am no longer answering questions of my past truthfully. In other words, I?m ducking the question in case my wife or Mom read your blog.

JasonB - One of my favorite questions.. If a genie were to pop out of your kitchen sink and offer you the opportunity to co-author a book with anyone, who would you pervert the time stream to rock the literary world with?
Johnny - That is a good question. Putting personalities aside and just thinking about what the end product could be, I?d probably go with Terry Southern. Odd choice to some maybe, but he?s one of the funniest people to have ever lived (tied with Robert Benchley and Michael O?Donoghue) with a completely different take than me. I think we could?ve rocked something.
At the least, we would?ve had a hilarious drunk.


  1. Good to know he is not spying on my family. Just kidding! I find the coincidence rather hilarious and I am really looking forward to reading this book. Great interview!


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