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.
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?
Colette.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.