Q&A With Jason Bovberg
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Q&A With Jason Bovberg
Today I have the pleasure of doing a Q&A with author Jason Bovberg. Here is a biography:
Jason Bovberg got his start in publishing back in 1998, with the creation of his small press Dark Highway Press, collaborating with Robert Devereaux to publish Devereaux’s controversial Santa Steps Out, a self-proclaimed “fairy tale for grown-ups.” He followed that up by editing and publishing the highly acclaimed weird-western anthology Skull Full of Spurs, which collected tall tales from the likes of Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum, Nancy Collins, and Edward Lee.
After an extended break raising a family and working for the tech industry, Bovberg penned a nostalgic noir in the Hard Case Crime vein called The Naked Dame, a naughty romp through the underbelly of 1950s Los Angeles.
In 2012, he began writing what would become the Blood trilogy—Blood Red, Draw Blood, and Blood Dawn—the first of which was picked up by Permuted Press. He likes to describe the Blood saga as a cross between Dawn of the Dead and John Carpenter’s The Thing, a wild tale of alien possession that has the trappings of a zombie story but is far more wacko! For the second two volumes, Bovberg resurrected Dark Highway Press to publish his books on his own, also bringing The Naked Dame to print for the first time.
Most recently, Bovberg has focused on the dark crime genre, releasing his SoCal pulp noir Loser Baby in 2021 and his naughty road-trip border noir Tessa Goes Down in 2022. Both books are page-turning thrillers featuring GenZ casts of characters just trying to survive in modern America.
He lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with his wife Barb and his daughters Harper and Sophie, and his canines Rocky and Rango.
Q: At what point did you realize that you were called to be an author?
Jason Bovberg: At the age of 20, I was a cancer survivor. Hodgkin’s Disease. My late teens were a time of great personal turmoil, and it turned out that the most effective way for me to deal with the disease and its chemotherapy/radiation treatment was to write. During those early years, that translated to really gross body-horror short stories, influenced by such authors as Clive Barker, Ray Garton, and Richard Laymon. I would eventually write a trilogy of apocalyptic horror novels (BLOOD RED, DRAW BLOOD, and BLOOD DAWN) metaphorically linked to my experience with cancer treatments.
Taking a wider view, I was heavily influenced by my late father, who was a high-school American History teacher and author of educational papers. I owe my love of southern California and crime fiction to him. So it was much later, in the mystery/crime genre, that I would find the type of writing that really made me consider myself an author. That’s when I began to flex my stylistic muscles and explore my own voice. LOSER BABY and TESSA GOES DOWN capture that expression, as well as my take on my daughters’ generation. Think of these novels as my attempt to establish a “drug-addled social-media-obsessed, bored, entitled, narcissistic, bipolar GenZ pulp neo-noir” genre.
Q: I also find it impressive that you made your own publishing company. What’s your advice to anyone wanting to self-publish or start their own publishing company?
Jason Bovberg: I set up Dark Highway Press in 1998 to publish the great and controversial SANTA STEPS OUT by the author Robert Devereaux. This was long before print-on-demand technology had matured, so founding a publishing company meant working with a printer and ordering a minimum print run of books that I had to store in my basement! It was an undertaking, for sure. But SANTA was very successful, thanks to the authorial talents of Robert Devereaux, the interior and cover art by Alan M. Clark, and the book-design skills of my partner, Darin Sanders. We went on to edit and publish, with the help of another partner, Kirk Whitham, the weird-western anthology SKULL FULL OF SPURS, which has since become quite collectible and sought after.
Although my efforts with Dark Highway Press slowed down after SPURS (I started raising a family), I resurrected it as a print-on-demand vehicle much later for my own books.
As for advice … that’s difficult. Even though (or perhaps BECAUSE) it’s much easier to do now than ever before, self-publishing is a brutal business. They ain’t kiddin’ when they say marketing is a bitch, particularly when you’re starting from scratch. An established publishing house, even a specialty outfit, has an existing following from which to jumpstart buzz. A single author is no match, and therefore has to catch lightning in a bottle (i.e., have an extraordinary stroke of luck) to garner ANY attention. You’re more apt to spend a lot of time and money on the editing/design/release of your baby and get nothing but a big shrug—regardless of the quality of your work. It can be vastly frustrating.
Therefore, I’m afraid my primary bit of advice is catch the attention of an agent or editor, however you can! Which is admittedly a tough prospect in today’s climate.
Q: Your two recent crime novels deal with the socio-political climate of the 2020s. What’s the trick to writing a neo-noir set in today’s America?
Jason Bovberg: We’re in the middle of an extremely dark period in American history, and that’s—as always—fertile ground for noir, just as it was during the Great Depression and the great wars. We’re facing fascism again, unbelievably, as well as unspeakable violence, political conflict, and social dissatisfaction. So I think today’s America is, for better or worse, an ideal backdrop for dark fiction and for characters struggling with personal darkness.
And that feeds into GenZ. I watched my daughters grow up in the grip of phone obsession, rabid social media, peer narcissism, a return of bullying, a new kind of social depression. In general, we’re in the midst of what I call the age of the asshole (enabled from the top, starting in 2016), and as a parent it was very difficult to navigate that with my girls. The pandemic certainly didn’t help, tossing a bunch of already fragile kids into solitary confinement. One way I tried to deal with everything was in my fiction, mostly in TESSA GOES DOWN, which is a very dark book, but one that I tried to balance with the type of gallows humor that I also see in this generation.
Q: If you were to collaborate with another author, who would it be with and why?
Jason Bovberg: I don’t think I’d play well with others. Writing collaboratively feels like an entirely different beast than what I’m accustomed to. To me, writing is a singularly insular act. It would become a separate kind of thing when shared. More like a work project than a piece of art? But if I had to choose an author to collaborate with, it would be someone that I’d quickly be on the same page with, someone like Scott Phillips or Duane Swierczynski or Eric Beetner.
Q: What’s your advice to anyone wanting to pursue writing as a career? What’s your advice to anyone struggling with writer’s block?
Jason Bovberg: Don’t do it! Well, seriously, if you’re a good schmoozer, now’s the time to use those skills. Today, perhaps more than ever—because of the plethora of voices reaching for the door—authors need to be able to shout about themselves and their work in new and unique ways, to get out in front of their books in person and—more importantly—in videos and online. If you’re an introvert, frankly, you’re in trouble.
As far as dealing with writer’s block, the simple answer is to not acknowledge it. Stick to a schedule in which you write for a certain amount of time every day. Adhere to a word count, whether those are good or bad words. For example, commit to writing 500 words between the hours of 8 and 10 p.m., every day. At a certain point, your brain will adapt and will start to reward you with powerful output more often than useless drivel, and you’ll up your daily word count to 750 words or 1,000 words. And then you’ll have a novel in a few months.
Q: Are you writing a new novel now? If so, can you spoil a little bit about it?
Jason Bovberg: I’m currently immersed in the first draft of a new southwestern crime novel, the last of what you might call a loose neo-noir trilogy after LOSER BABY and TESSA GOES DOWN. It’s called LITTLE MISS NOBODY, and it’s based on a true-crime case in 1960s-era Arizona.
In all three novels, I’m trying new things with perspective. In LOSER BABY, I played with multiple third-person perspectives crashing against one another; in TESSA, I went for dual perspectives playing against each other, back and forth, like a true two-hander; and in LITTLE MISS NOBODY, I’m going for for unreliable first-person narration. We’ll see how it goes. I’m fascinated by perspective, in general.