Monday, December 12, 2011

Author Interview: John Bubar

I can’t think of a better way to launch Across the Plain of Shining Books than by introducing author John Bubar, a good friend and fine writer. After thirty-six years as a pilot in both military and civilian aviation, John found his way back to school and is currently a candidate for an MFA in Writing at the University of New Hampshire. His short story, Ambush, is part of the lineup in a new anthology, Best New England Crime Stories 2012: Dead Calm, recently released by Level Best Books.

Welcome to Across the Plain of Shining Books, John. Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?

The middle of Maine—very rural—a small town of 700 people nestled on the banks of the Carrabassett River.

Ambush is a gripping story. I enjoyed the complexities of the characters and the intricacies of the plot. What inspired you to write it?
An assignment in my MFA program to mimic one of the short stories we’d read, but to put our own twist into it. My first draft was only six pages, written in the second person, and was inspired by Xmas, Jamaica Plain by Melanie Rae Thon, where the two main characters want to break into a house but are afraid someone might be in there with a gun. I wondered what it would be like to put myself into the head of the person in the house with the gun.
At the same time there was a presidential election going on and John Edwards was telling everyone: "200,000 Vietnam veterans go to sleep under bridges and over grates every night." And I thought about those other veterans who, like functional alcoholics, make it through life, more or less, but in doing so, have in some ways become more invisible than the homeless. What would they do to get their fifteen minutes of fame back? To become visible again, if only for a moment?
From all of this, my character, Speck Gagnon, was born.
How did you come up with the title?
There is a literal ambush in the story, but it’s also a story about a guy who has been ambushed by life.
Is there a message in your story you’d like readers to grasp?
Yes. There might well be more to that tired looking old guy in the hand-me-down clothes than you think. Give him a little respect.
What sparked your interest in writing?
Curiosity—I’ve always been a voracious reader and I wondered what it would be like to try to write.
What do you feel is your biggest strength as a writer?
I’m a reader.
Good answer. Which authors do you feel have influenced your writing most?
Rick Bass, Annie Proulx, James Lee Burke, Martin Cruz Smith, Kenneth Roberts.
Name a few titles I’d find if I browsed through your personal home library.
The Lives of Rocks, Accordion Crimes, Cadillac Jukebox, Red Square, Arundel, and Northwest Passage.
So many authors, so little time. Since you enjoy reading so much, you must discover lots of writers previously unknown to you. Can you list a few "new" favorites?
Arnaldur Indridason who writes murder mysteries set in Iceland and solved by his troubled Detective Erlendeur, and Fred Vargas who writes murder mysteries set in France. I describe her detective, Commissaire Adamsburg, as the anti-Holmes. And Thomas King, whose essays in his The Truth About Stories speaks to the power of stories to change who we are.
If you could go back in time, what author would you most like to invite to share a chat and a bottle of wine?
You’re marooned on a desert island. What’s the one book you’d want with you, and why?
The New Oxford American Dictionary. How far into perusing a dictionary are you able to go without a word or words sparking your imagination, reminding you of a story or a time or an event? For me, maybe three words and their definitions, and I’m off into an imaginary world.
Do you celebrate when you finish writing a story, and if so, how?
I find myself exhaling.
Who supports your writing activities most?
My writing group.
I agree with that response. I’d be lost without my writing group. What does your family think of your writing?
That I should write more.
So can we look forward to a new story soon, John? What’s next for you?
Finishing my MFA program. I’m putting my thesis together now and looking at a half-dozen stories with an eye toward submission.
And we'll be watching for those stories. Thank you, John. Best of luck with your writing!

Best New England Crime Stories 2012: Dead Calm is available from Level Best Books, from Amazon, and from Amazon Kindle.


  1. Excellent interview! Best of luck to you, John. Your writing sounds intriguing.


  2. Glad you enjoyed the interview, Maeve. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  3. Thanks for your best wishes, Maeve.

  4. How special to be the very first interview on this nice shinny new blog. Great interview, and great blog. :-)

  5. Tami, I agree, this interview is special. Thank you for visiting!

  6. Great interview Pat! Well done!

    And I love this site. Very nice feel to it.

    John, it was great to meet you. Your book sounds very interesting! All the best to you!

  7. Hi, John. So nice to learn a wee bit about you and your story. Good luck with the MFA and your future writing adventures.

    Nice new site, Pat. Looking forward to meeting many new writers in this space.

  8. @ Thanks, Renee. I love the idea of a plain of books!

    @ Dawn, I hope to feature many writers and their books here. John is a great start!

    Thank you both for popping by.

  9. Hello, John. Your book sounds fascinating. Good luck with it. And Pat, I love this new site. Eye appealing and clean looking, I'd love to guest with you sometime.

  10. Hi Pat! I'd love to have you come visit. Drop me a note whenever you're inclined.

  11. I love your new blog Pat, crisp, clear and inviting. A place where readers will want to settle in for a while.

    John, congratulations on having Ambush accepted into the anthology. Good luck with your writing. Now that you have your Speck Gagnon formed from such a solid base, he could well appear in new stories or even a novel. He sounds like a fully rounded character.

  12. Wendy, that's an excellent suggestion. I hope John agrees! Thanks making the trek to visit. I appreciate your kind words about the blog.

  13. Enjoyed the interview and visiting your new blog. I'll be contacting you. :)

  14. Pat, I enjoyed the interview very much. John's answers are very unusual and I'm intrigued by his choices. I love your new blog and will also be contacting you. Great title.

  15. @ Ginger, I'll look forward to hearing from you.

    @ Barbara, I'll look forward to hearing from you too.

    Glad you both enjoyed the interview. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  16. Nice shiny new blog my friend, well done! Great interview with John too. I appreciate his unique view on things, and he isn't kidding when he talks about the dictionary and his incredible imagination! I couldn't agree more about the value of a good writer's group too:) You both need to keep up the great work.


  17. Thanks, Dave. I agree about John and the dictionary :-) And about the writers' group. Great to see you here!

  18. Thank you all for visiting. Pat is a great interviewer (and writer) and it was fun to talk to her as her interviewee. I hadn't considered some of those questions before and enjoyed watching Pat's eyebrow arch at some of my answers.
    Wendy--thanks for the kind words about my friend Speck Gagnon--I have been writing short stories set in Maine rather than any longer pieces. Shorty, the mechanic, appears briefly in another one. I admire those of you who can write the long intricate works--maybe someday...

  19. The last time I played handball with Johnnie, I beat him 21 to 19 - if memory serves any better than he did. It was in Thailand.
    James Lee Burke has long been one of my favorite writers along with Robert Parker and John D. McDonald - guys who could pack a ton of description into very few words.
    I look forward to reading John's story and checking out the authors he likes.

  20. Hi Mike--Good to hear your "voice". It's been a while and your memory does have a better service than my handball game. And don't some of those characters we met in the service give a guy something to write about? You remember, "Black Jack, nitnoy nam." Then there was the agreement we all made in the cockpit before we headed half-way around the world. As to authors--check out Rick Bass.
    Shiny-side up, rubber side down, eh?