Beau Johnson is from Brantford, Ontario and has been getting raw with readers on both sides of the border in such publications as Out of the Gutter Online, Shotgun Honey, Spelk, HST, and the Molotov Cocktail. His first published collection, A Better Kind of Hate, drops August 14 from Down and Out Books..
One Bite at a Time: Tell us about A Better Kind of Hate.
Beau Johnson: A Better Kind of Hate is a no-holds-barred collection of feel-good
OBAAT: Did you write these intending them to be a collection, or is this more of a compilation of stories published elsewhere first?
BJ: These stories were never written with the intent of being collected. Once that was thrown to the wind, then yes, more stories where written precisely for this collection. New content, as it were.
OBAAT: Understanding he’s not the sole protagonist in the collection, but Bishop Rider is the engine for multiple stories here. Where did he come from? In what ways is he like, and unlike, you?
BJ: Ha! I'm pretty far removed from Bishop Rider. He's combination of many things, but anger is the thing which drives him most. Call him Frank Castle. Call him Charles Bronson. Call him a man who is trying to save himself by saving others.
OBAAT: Many anthologies have a unifying theme. Do you have one in mind here, or is the unifying point the fact that you wrote all the stories?
BJ: I never thought about theme until Joe Clifford mentioned this: Whether showcasing Rider or another flawed hero, Johnson operates in shades of gray, where sometimes all it takes is for a bad man to kill a worse one. I like that. Pretty much puts the whole book into perspective theme-wise. I can't thank him enough.
OBAAT: How did A Better Kind of Hate end up with Down & Out?
BJ: Tom Pitts. Tom Pitts. Tom Pitts. As I have said more than once, he put the bug in my ear. After a false start with another publisher, Tom again swooped in to save the day. He suggested I approach Eric Campbell at Down and Out. Low and behold, the rest is me still dancing as we speak.
OBAAT: We agree: Tom Pitts is the goods. As good a person as he is a writer, and his writing kicks ass. How do you know Tom?
BJ: I met Tom about five or six years ago through Joe Clifford and Out of the Gutter Online. Joe was the editor of the Flash Fiction section then, and I believe Tom became co-editor about the time I first started sending out submissions. For truth, I believe it was Tom's doing that got one of my earlier pieces for Out of the Gutter, “A Patient Man,” accepted for publication. Joe was on the fence about it if memory serves, and asked if he could have bit more time to let this new guy have a look. Lo and behold, an acceptance was born. That was the start of me having Tom Pitts in my corner. I think Henry Rollins should play him in the movie.
OBAAT: Besides the friendships with Tom Pitts and Joe Clifford, you and I share another connection: Down and Out Books. Tell us what it’s like working with Eric and Lance and the whole extended family.
BJ: It. Has. Been. Awesome! Those guys are so great, so professional. Every question I have had has been answered. Every thought responded to. And don't even get me started on how they cleaned up the inside of A Better Kind of Hate. I don't know what it is, but me and semi colons, we are going to come to blows one day!
OBAAT: What made you decide to be an author?
BJ: I always liked English better than math. Maybe that was it. I can't say for sure though. What I can tell you is I have always liked to write but life got in the way for many of the years where I did not write. Which is fine. I'd have it no other way. But when I got back to it...man, it is a feeling like no other.
OBAAT: What kinds of stories do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors, in or out of that area?
BJ: Crime fiction, of course. Anything King. I am also enjoying his son, Joe Hill. I dig Christopher Farnsworth as well, he of the President's Vampire. Ryan Sayles of the Richard Dean Buckner series. There is Marietta Miles, Paul D. Brazill, Eric Beetner, and still there is more. Too many to name.
OBAAT: Do you outline or fly by the seat of you pants?
BJ: Pants. Nothing but pants.
OBAAT: Give us an idea of your process. Do you edit as you go? Throw anything into a first draft knowing the hard work is in the revisions? Something in between?
BJ: Great question. I'm something of an in-between kind of writer. Put it down, fix it up. If I have to stop, I sometimes go back to the beginning when I start up again, fixing as I go until I'm at the spot I finished at and then go on from there. Once that is done, once I think the story is mostly done, I revise it 10-15 times. Easy. I then let it sit a couple of weeks and stew. Complete, I give it a once over and then send it to my brother or sister and they take a [look] for any kind of typos I more than likely missed.
OBAAT: Who are your greatest influences? (Not necessarily writers. Filmmakers, other artists, whoever you think has had a major impact on your writing.)
BJ: Stephen King. No question. I'm not even remotely in his orbit but he is the guy who got me hooked. I liked Joss Whedon a lot. Vince Gilligan. Garth Ennis.
OBAAT: If you could have written any book of the past hundred years, what would it be, and what is it about that book you admire most?
BJ: I know I sound like a broken record, but King. The Dark Tower specifically. I love how it winds through almost every aspect of his work. I love that he never knew this was happening from the beginning. I love the moment I realized it was.
OBAAT: I sense an affection for the work of Stephen King. What is about his writing that appeals to you so strongly?
BJ: Hmm. How do I put this into words? It's not just his writing, because it is, but it the seeds he left me, there when I began to read him. There I was, nose deep into Eyes of the Dragon, minding no one's business but my own, and I come to realize the wizard of that book, the Big Bad, is none other than Randall Flagg, the man in black himself. Yup, pretty sure my head went and tried to explode when that particular puzzle piece feel into place. Like so many before me, Stephen King has had me ever since.
OBAAT: Have you read half-memoir/half-how-to-manual On Writing?
BJ: Oh yes. Twice. Great stuff. All of it. I don't think I quite have the game to pull off everything he suggests but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't trying.
OBAAT: Is there anything you wish interviewers would ask about more? Some topic you’d like to see writers discuss more in forums such as this?
BJ: Cheese. I would like to see more discussion steered toward cheese and all its inherit goodness.
OBAAT: Okay. I’ll bite. What’s your favorite cheese and why?
BJ: Ha! Nice. All cheese. Every kind. As for why? Well, that'd be telling. But if anyone really wants to know, hey, it might be in the book!
OBAAT: What are you currently working on, and why does it kick ass?
BJ: As of this moment, not a thing. Ah, the life of a pantser!