Thursday, February 14, 2008

Reader Meet Author

John Sheppard

Storm and stress... the journey begins, a journey full of challenges and discoveries. The best discoveries always seem to take place is the smallest towns, the cornfields, the dirt roads, and the pizza huts. At times it is the moments between events that are the most rewarding, this is when the internal discoveries can be made. In youth, the decisions are made rapidly and without much thought, emotions reign, and everything is fresh. It is only natural that these are the years that many writers reflect on and elaborate upon.

In the novel Small Town Punk, Chicago writer John Sheppard, illuminates the boredom, addiction, romance, and discoveries of youth. Now as we await John's next novel, Tales of The Peacetime Army (Paragraph Line Books, March 2008), we can only imagine what journey John will take us on next.

Recently, he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): Punk can be defined in many different ways, but most people realize it is more of an attitude then a musical genre. How do you define the word punk?
John Sheppard (JS): Three components: Youth, rage, loud music.

OA: What is it about the late teen's and early twenties that so many writers find compelling?
JS: It's the time when a young person figures out who he/she is and what he/she wants out of life. Since many writers traffic in sturm und drang, we are drawn to those years.

OA: Small Town Punk was originally published by Writer's Club Press back in 2002, how was the decision made to republish the novel with IG?
JS: Writer's Club Press is an arm of iUniverse, a self-publishing company. Robert Lasner approached me about republishing it with his press in 2005. I said yes. A contract was signed. The book came back out about a year-and-a-half later. A tour was set up. I toured. I enjoyed flying around the country, but not the readings. I am uncomfortable on stage.

OA: I just watched the trailer for your next novel, Tales of a Peacetime Army, and it is interesting but not to revealing. What can you tell us about your new novel which will be offically released next month?
JS: It is an anti-novel set in the U.S. Army in Europe during the waning days of the Cold War. The narrator is an affectless philosophy student who joins the Army on a whim. He coldly assesses his environment without engaging it. It's a little like an Alain Robbe-Grillet novel, minus the murder victim. I wrote it while taking time off from writing a novel that I've spent the past two years working on, which also concerns a soldier.

OA: What's next for John Sheppard?
JS: Some day in the future, I hope to finish this damn novel that I've been working on since 2006. It's about a soldier who returns from the Iraq War. In many ways, he is not whole. His identical twin brother is locked in an institution. His mother is dying of cancer. He abandons them both, along with a little sister, to live in a small town far away. He falls in love with the girlfriend of a friend. Eventually, he must go home to confront the people he abandoned and attempt to make everything right. I need to cut the manuscript down. It's about 400 pages as it is now. A couple of snippets of this prospective novel appear in an anthology, Santi: The Lives of Modern Saints, which came out last month and includes a lot of writers that I greatly respect.

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
JS: I started drinking coffee when I worked the graveyard shift at a Steak n Shake in Gainesville, Fla. back in the early 1980's. The coffee there was laced with chicory. After that, I joined the Army and drank Army coffee, which can also be used to clean the grease and rust off weaponry. These days, I like the strong coffee that I find in diners.

OA: There are several references to music in Small Town Punk, but what type of music do you listen to currently? Who are a few of your all-time favorites?
JS: I listen to whatever is playing on 93XRT in the morning. Sometimes, I still listen to the punk rock from way back when. It's like an echo from a distant life. Pavement is one of favorite bands.
My all-time favorite line from a song is "God told me to skin you alive." Sometimes, I turn to my dogs and tell them that. They wag their tails.

For more information on John Sheppard please visit his website, and also visit the Small Town Punk website.

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