What is your genre? Why did you choose it?
I think of my book series as reality writing. It’s not like fake reality TV however. My books show how things really happened in the kind of real life that doesn’t involve a camera crew. So it’s non-fiction, romance, and inspirational in a way I could never have made up. It’s life as it is with all its bitter-sweetness, flaws, and redeeming qualities.
Do you work on more than one manuscript at a time?
My first two books are out, so I have stopped working on those. I am still tweaking book three while plunging ahead into book four. I work on everything at once until the minute it comes out. Then I have to give up on the stuff that is already out there.
Do you work with a writing/critique group?
I have authors, friends, and editors who encourage me and help me improve what I write.
Can you remember your first reading book?
I remember big pictures and big print for little words in Kindergarten books.
Do you nibble on snacks while writing? If so, what is your chosen treat?
I guess I don’t have enough hands to type and eat. I do have a cup of coffee I guzzle when I can’t think of the word I want to use in a particular spot.
Tidy desk or a bombsite? Describe your writing area with us.
I write in a warehouse while waiting for deliveries. I sit at a work bench and crank out as many words as I can until the next truck shows up. I have a pair of speakers, a clock, various post-it notes, FedEx pro labels, a calculator, phone and paperwork somewhat scattered around my keyboard.
Are you published in the traditional manner or self published? Share your journey.
I never intended to write a book. I had a friend who is a writer and who had gone through an abusive relationship, so I sent her my story in installments which I thought she would relate to. After I was done, I realized I had indeed written a book. Then I thought, “As long as I have this sitting here and it’s a good story, I should just send it out into the world and see if it’s helpful to anyone else.” So I self-published on Smashwords and started fishing for reviews. After a short while, I ended up on the radio and met my favorite author friend Brenda Perlin on the air. A year later, she ended up introducing me to Kim Mutch Emerson at Master Koda, and she and her team gave me a chance. Now I have a strong support system and a second family in Master Koda, so I ended up accidentally landing in a position in which I can have a lot of fun and be successful doing what I would naturally do anyway.
Who would you say have been the three most influential authors in your reading/writing life?
My first answer is a curve ball because it is Brian Wilson. I haven’t been writing novels for long, but I have been a songwriter since I was a little kid making up songs at our family piano. Once I was in Jr. High, I really began studying the work of Brian Wilson who taught me complete immersion into a project and how to look at writing in a holistic way…writing with your entire being rather than just sitting down and manufacturing a work. I still learn from Brian Wilson’s work on a daily basis.
Second is also a curve ball, and that person is Paul Simon who taught me with his lyrics that words can be manipulated to have particular rhythms. Everything I write has to have a certain rhythm, and I will work with every word until I find it. I am very meticulous about that, and I learned that concept from Paul Simon.
Last, I guess, would be John Updike who was able to make me feel like I was in each and every scene he wrote about. I have to draw from what I learned from him when I try to recreate the everyday as well as the dramatic scenes I write about.
What advice would you like to share with other writers/authors with regard to preparing a manuscript?
Fix it until you can’t stand to look at it, get an editor, fix it with that person, then go back and fix it some more. Don’t ever be satisfied.
If the movie rights to your novels are purchased, who would you like to play your main characters?
I’m not much of a movie fan. I avoid them. I feel like the movie industry tanked after the early 60s and just became annoying. It’s like asking what car commercial I would want my book to be in. Why would I aspire to that? Having someone turn my books into cliché money-making scams would be incredibly invasive.
I was on my way to the supermarket, when … Do you have a tale to tell relating to an everyday, boring event?
I remember one hot afternoon in the summer of 2007 just before my twins were born while my wife was on bed rest. We were out of milk, so I took a little walk down to the gas station convenience store which was about the length of two city blocks away.
I cut through the apartment parking lot behind our house and through a yard, walking as the crow would fly. On that route which I had walked many times before, there was always this menacing looking dog chained to one of the houses. I called the dog Cujo. He would go berserk when he saw me and run at full-speed until his chain yanked him violently back. Then he would fly around on that leash like a kite bouncing off the ground, tugging the leash at the edge of the yard while going crazy, barking and lunging. I always wondered what would happen if the chain suddenly broke, though I did not want to experience the result.
That afternoon, I took off through the parking lot as I usually did on my way to the gas station. This time, as I was walking down the middle of the street, I neared Cujo’s house and he caught sight of me. He went into his regular routine, running at full speed right toward me.
This time, however, I stopped dead in my tracks because I immediately noticed something was wrong. There was no chain. The dog was loose and headed straight for me in a full run, barking furiously as he closed in. This was his big opportunity. He finally had me right where he wanted me. The speed at which he ran was frightening. I could see his paws gripping the ground and throwing grass behind him; the muscles in his legs flexing with each quick stride.
I really can’t explain why or what made me do what I did next, but I remember thinking, “I’m not going to run.” I don’t know why I thought that. I should probably have run, but I decided in that split-second I would hold my ground. Then I did something I also can’t explain and which was horribly dangerous.
I dropped to one knee, put my arms out as if to hug the dog, and said, “Ok, come on.”
He got about five feet from me and suddenly went into a trot until he came just outside of my arms’ reach. I put my arms out toward him and said, “Well, come on.”
He made an about-face and quietly trotted back to his stoop. I was amazed at what had just happened – at my behaviour as well as the dog’s. I was equally or more amazed that I was completely calm before, during, and after the event. I had no way to explain any of it. I just bought the milk at the gas station and took another route home, all the while entirely in wonderment.
These days I understand what happened, but the explanation is part of the unfolding story which you can read for yourself!
Wow, that was a moment!
John Emil Augustine grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota and toured in his twenties and early thirties with local and national acts; writing, arranging, and performing with notable jazz, blues, gospel, reggae, post funk, prog rock, and folk groups. John has also been a landscaper, mail carrier, English professor, and forklift operator. He currently lives in Minneapolis with his wife and four boys. John is the author of the From the Abyss book series and has also recorded the album Chants for Renewal, Presence and Awareness.
Eight little known facts about John:
1. I fell several hundred feet down a mountain in the Swiss Alps when I was 16. My buddies and I decided we were going to go sledding, and I was flying through the snow so fast that when I got to where the snow met the rocks below, I didn’t stop. I cartwheeled for a long while, right up to the school bus-sized rocks near the valley. I was somehow able to stretch myself out and stop before I was dashed to pieces. I still have the scars.
2. I’ve been held at gunpoint/knifepoint more than once and have almost always been able to talk my way out of the situations. I once had three guys follow me into a dark alley after I played a gig and while I was carrying all my equipment. They blocked my path to my car and held knives up to my face, and I still managed to talk them out of the way and left with all my gear and my car. I got lucky.
3. Among others, I used to arrange for and perform with one of the Wailers. I was truly schooled in reggae during that time.
4. I was adopted into a Lakota tribe several years ago and learned more than I can tell from the experience.
5. I have been homeless in the winter, played for change on the streets of Downtown Minneapolis, and have sold scrap metal for food money. I also learned much from those experiences.
6. I had three of my front teeth knocked out while playing a gig on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. I now sport porcelain caps.
7. I was an English professor for the better part of a decade until the economy tanked. I loved teaching.
8. I was the victim of domestic abuse, and the “From the Abyss” book series has a lot to do with my experience.
Wow, what a colourful life you lead! Thanks for sharing, John.