Yay! Author Interview Month is upon us! Today’s featured author is the wonderful Joseph Ferguson, author of Southbound. Joe first approached me to review his novel, and since then I have been happy to have gotten to know him and his passion for writing. His novel “Southbound” is so raw and real, and I couldn’t put it down. I love books that are based on real people and events, and Joe did this so well in his novel by also adding in his own touches of fiction. Read below to learn more about him and his writing!
1) What is the first memory you have of writing?
I used to draw and write comic books with crayons when I was very young; usually featuring a Godzilla-like creature stomping on some ill-fated metropolis.
2) Which authors inspire you, and why?
Anyone who writes well and/or has a unique style or perspective. Over the years I’ve been inspired by Hemingway, Harry Crews, Kerouac, Flann O’Brien, Roddy Doyle, Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Sartre, Camus, Kafka, Tolkien, Ralph Ellison, Harlan Ellison, Richard Brautigan, Faulkner, Tom Waits,Richard Fariña, Richard Price and Leonard Cohen, Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee…The list goes on.
3) What is your favorite genre to read, and why?
I suppose it’s fiction, though I love to read anything – science, history, biography, plays, poetry, philosophy
4) What is your favorite genre to write, and why?
I seem to specialize in short fiction at the moment, but have a few unfinished novels waiting in the wings. Before I retired and could actually follow up on all the half-done stories, and ideas scribbled on bar napkins, I could only finish poems, since they are short enough to see the whole thing from beginning to end.
5) Do you like writing alone or collaborating, and why?
I always write alone, but really should have a collaborator. It’s great to have someone you can bounce ideas off, and fuel your energy; but most importantly for me, someone to keep me from goofing off. (Joe wouldn’t mind collaborating with someone – if you would like to collaborate with Joe, feel free to reach out to him!)
6) What was your inspiration for Southbound?
The first story I wrote was “Southbound,” for a Creative Writing Class in college back in 78 or 9. Several people from my neighborhood had drowned while drinking at that marina in Yonkers; one in particular happened with the real Basement Man, pretty much how I wrote it. So with a ready-made story, I tried to concentrate on the details of location, and the symbolism of not being able to get from point A to point B. Basement Man was something of a hit in the class, so I then wrote another one, “After the Crux,” for the same class.
7) Why did you choose to write a short story collection instead of a novel?
Well, as I said, it started as two separate short stories. “After the Crux” was then published in a small literary magazine called Swift Kick, and the editor said she wanted to do an issue featuring my work. That gave me the idea to make it all Basement Man stories. Unfortunately, life, working as a PR writer, and a general tendency to avoid facing a blank page at all costs got in the way, and though I produced one or two more BM stories, I never did get enough for the collection. I finally finished up the last one this past summer, after retiring, at which time I also learned that it was now possible to publish your own book for free; so there then ensued the long search for all the pre-computer stories, wading through musty files, and luckily, tracking them all down in the end.
8) Did you purposely write your short stories to resemble poetry?
Thank you for saying that. I imagine it’s a combination of deliberately trying to write as precisely and economically as possible (little attribution, show don’t tell, make every word count), and the fact that all those years where life got in the way of writing anything long, I wrote poetry almost exclusively. I also tend to accidentally alliterate…I call myself Afunctionally Alliterate.
9) Was Brian Weidner your Muse for Southbound? If so, why?
Damn, you actually read the acknowledgements? Yes, Brian sort of created this larger-than-life persona for himself and moved in. It was such clear-cut character that there was no work at all to recreate him on paper. It was more like transcribing. Even though, other than “Southbound,” most of what I have him doing or saying never happened, the character was so strong, I knew exactly how he would have reacted to any situation. Along the way, I did bounce the stories off Brian, who by the way is a writer in his own right (and one with much better work habits than mine).
10) How long were you working on Southbound before finishing it?
Well, I started them at college in the late 70s, and finished up last summer, so about 38 years. Of course, there was a lot more not working on it going on than working on it.
*Thank you to Joe for participating in this interview! You can find him and his work at the following links, and please feel free to reach out to him. He is a very passionate author and I look forward to reading any new work he comes out with!