Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Author Spotlight: Jon Bassoff—Complete with Interview

About the Author
Jon Bassoff was born in 1974 in New York City and currently lives in a ghost town somewhere in Colorado. His mountain gothic novel, Corrosion, was called “startlingly original and unsettling” by Tom Piccirilli (a four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award) and “beautifully bleak” by international bestselling author, Jason Starr. In addition to his work as a writer, Bassoff is the founder of the crime fiction publisher New Pulp Press, which was called “genius masked as genre” by New York Magazine.

Connect with Jon Bassoff:

The Interview
Joshua Allen Mercier: Which book introduced you to speculative fiction?
Jon Bassoff: I’ve always been passionate about crime fiction and noir fiction, but I remember seeing the movie Angel Heart, and later reading the book (called Falling Angel) by William Hjortsberg. A very powerful experience for me, which showed some exceedingly creative things that could be done within genre fiction.

Joshua Allen Mercier: Do you have an all-time favorite book? What about it makes it your favorite?
Jon Bassoff: That’s a tough one, for sure. I’ll go with The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. It’s a social commentary on racism, but what struck me was Ellison’s incredibly exuberant writing style. Nothing is more powerful or painful than his description of the Battle Royal. But there are so many more books with which I'm obsessed: Wise Blood, The Sound and the Fury, The Butcher Boy, The Killer Inside Me, The Stranger, The Postman Always Rings Twice, just to name a few…

Joshua Allen Mercier: William Faulkner is great with POV—a great study for the subject matter, actually.  I love a lot of his works, especially As I Lay DyingWhich author—and/or book—inspired you to start writing?
Jon Bassoff: From the time I was a kid, I loved writing, and even back then I was into all the detective fiction and movies. Stuff like Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon and, when I was eight or nine, The Hardy Boys. And an extra note on those Hardy Boys books; I was always attracted to Callie Shaw, who I think was Frank’s girlfriend. They had these hand drawn pictures in the books and…well, never mind. Once I started taking my writing more seriously, once I started writing novels, they guy who influenced me was Jim Thompson. I loved the idea of being able to write from the POV of a psychopath. So The Killer Inside Me might be the most influential book I ever read.

Joshua Allen Mercier: As an aspiring Fantasy author trying to shop his first manuscript, what piece of advice would you offer to an individual in my situation?
Jon Bassoff: I would say to not feel confined by the publishing process. It’s not like the old days, when you were so reliant on the big boy publishers. There are so many platforms to get your work out. Be creative. We’re living in the future here.

Joshua Allen Mercier: Of the entire publishing process, what would you say is the most difficult aspect to endure?
Jon Bassoff: Things are a bit easier now that I have an agent and a publisher, but I remember writing queries as being the most tedious, torturous work as possible. And waiting, waiting, waiting.

Joshua Allen Mercier: Were there any actual events or people that inspired any bit of the plot or characters in Corrosion?
Jon Bassoff: I don’t think I’ve ever based my characters wholly on real people, but I’m sure there are mannerisms and traits that I’ve included consciously or not. I think I’m more inspired by places I’ve been and feelings I’ve had—I think the characters develop from there. For Corrosion, there is a little mountain town in Colorado called Ward. The whole town is surrounded by abandoned cars from, like, 40 years ago. Trying to keep people out—or keep people in. That place inspired much of the writing of that book.

Joshua Allen Mercier: Remind me to never visit Ward, Colorado! Do you have a favorite character (to write)? If so, what sets them apart the others?
Jon Bassoff: The crazier the character, the more I like writing about them. Benton Faulk, from Corrosion, is probably my favorite character I’ve created.

Joshua Allen Mercier: Did the story come to you as it is formatted in the book? If not, which of the three parts of the story evolved first?
Jon Bassoff: The process took a lot of testing and refining actually. Like the way chemists create your favorite processed foods. Add a little Maltodextrin here, a little Lactic Acid there, add a touch Sorbic Acid and bam, you’ve got Cheez Whiz. Or, in my case, Corrosion.

Joshua Allen Mercier: What project(s) are you working on at the moment?
Jon Bassoff: I’ve recently finished a book called Factory Town. Very dark. Very surreal. I think very scary. It’ll be coming out from DarkFuse in October. A great screenwriter named Jack Reher is working on the screenplay. Jack also wrote the screenplay for Corrosion, which will hopefully be coming to the big screen in the not so distant future.

Joshua Allen Mercier: I'm looking forward to reading Factory Town. Could you describe your writing process to the readers?
Jon Bassoff: It’s never the same. Sometimes I spend a long time on the outlining, making sure the pieces are all in place. Other times I get frustrated by my lack of a coherent plan, so I just jump in. But every book is torturous in its own way. I tend to be compulsive to a fault. Almost a disease, really.

Joshua Allen Mercier: I truly liked the story, your descriptions, and your ability to tie everything together into a pretty (horrific) little bow, but I was repeatedly jarred by the lack of dialogue delimiters. What drove your decision to not use typical dialogue format for your story?
Jon Bassoff: In some ways I was following in the southern gothic tradition—guys like Cormac McCarthy, William Gay, and David Grubb all wrote without dialogue, and I liked the stark feel it created. Additionally, my characters tend to be quite unreliable. Sometimes it is unclear if what is happening is spoken word, or their own voices.

Joshua Allen Mercier: I guess that makes more sense, about the characters, though (for me) it truly brought the narrative to a screeching halt at times. I'm not sure of the topic or in what capacity, but would you consider writing a guest post on The Bearded Scribe at some point?
Jon Bassoff: Be most honored to do that.

Joshua Allen Mercier: Is there anything else that you would like to share with The Bearded Scribe's readers that I did not ask you (and you wished I had)?
Jon Bassoff: I’m just glad you didn’t ask me about my recent arrests and rehab stints. I’m ready to move on.

...Let's hope he was kidding, Beardies!  LOL!

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