Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest author, songwriter, music producer and bipolar humanist, John Rachel.
Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest author, songwriter, music producer and bipolar humanist, John Rachel.
has spent his life trying to resolve the intrinsic clash between the
metaphysical purity of Buddhism and the overwhelming appeal of
narcissism. Prompted by the trauma of graduating high school and
having to leave his beloved city of Detroit to attend college, the
development his social skills and world view was arrested at age 18.
This affliction figures prominently in all of his creative work.
In his own words: “I write trivial garbage to clutter the world with nonsense, but do it with penitent irony and great reverence for literary tradition.”
He is author of eight novels, and two non-fiction political books. He has also had over 30 short stories, 7 poems, and numerous political articles published in both print and online magazines.
in development is a new novel set in Japan, another in Africa, and a
creative non-fiction work, allegedly an account of his extensive
travels, but more likely the product of the voices in his head which
have plagued him since puberty.
John has been traveling through and living in over thirty-two countries since leaving America August of 2006. He is now somewhat rooted in a small traditional farming village in Japan near Osaka, where he proudly tends his small but promising vegetable garden.
Norm: Good day John and thank for participating in our interview
How did you get started in writing? What keeps you going?
I’ve always been writing. Songs, limericks, papers at university
in philosophy, history, social science. I never get writer’s
block. I have writer’s tsunami. I’m drowning in ideas. My wife
has resorted to firing animal tranquilizer darts at me to shut me up.
What inspires me? Life. People. Politics. Love. War. Hope. Dreams.
Speaking of which, the last few years I have been doing my best work
while asleep. I know I know. It sounds like a rationalization for
living like a cat. But seriously, I now have these incredibly vivid
dreams, whole scenes, dialogue, narration.
Now I will admit, sometimes it’s garbage. Or it just dissolves as my head emerges from the quicksand of sleep. But more often than not, the stuff is pretty good. If it sticks with me through my first cup of coffee, I know I’ve got something I can use. And have used! Many times in my books and stories.
Norm: Why have you been drawn to living in a small traditional farming village near Osaka?
John: I left America in 2006 because the America I grew up in seemed to be disappearing, replaced by a paranoid police state. George W. Bush was president and both the political and social order was disintegrating.
I traveled the world for a year doing something called WWOOFing. WWOOF stands for “Worldwide Opportunities in Organic Farming.”
last stop was Japan. I fell in love with the country! But at that
point thoroughly consumed by wanderlust, I continued to travel and
since 2006 have been in 33 countries. Some were quick visits. Others
long stays (Nepal, India, Vietnam).
But I kept coming back to Japan.
I met the lady in my life, a brilliant, talented Japanese opera
singer, classical pianist, writer, calligrapher, and married her. She
is now a music teacher for a local elementary school and lives in
Sasayama, Hyogo prefecture.
The town is very traditional. Our house is surrounded by mountains, rice and soybean fields. It’s very peaceful (great for writing). The loudest sound I hear is the ringing of temple bells from a nearby Shinto temple. The second loudest is the chirping of birds. It’s like living in a fairy tale!
Norm: Where/how do you recommend writers try to break into the writing market? What are common mistakes you see aspiring writers make?
This is just my opinion, shared by a very tiny minority of writers.
To “break into the writing market” should be secondary to writing
something worth marketing.
Taking that thought even further, I believe that considering the marketplace when writing bastardizes the entire creative process, meaning that what is produced out of market-oriented writing is doomed to inferiority because it is fundamentally disingenuous. It may be commercially successful but most likely not. Why not? Because it’s not written from the heart.
Thus, the most common mistake an aspiring writer can make is turning
what is essentially a creative process into an attempted commercial
for-profit enterprise. Success in the marketplace is in any case very
arbitrary. It’s a big, indifferent world. 99.9% of everybody out
there will not even notice your book, don’t care, are too busy
taking selfies, looking at porn, or praying for a miracle.
say, 95% of literate people don’t read anything lengthier than a
Tweet or the product description for some sale item on Amazon. BUT …
if you don’t write something worthy of being embraced by lovers of
literature, you surely will not deserve what commercial success you
might accidentally achieve.
Then how will you sleep at night on your yacht cruising the islands of Greece, knowing your book is a superficial piece of crap? Think about it! Or don’t. Maybe it’s all about the bucks for you. If so, and again this is just my skewed opinion, you’d be better off putting slivers of the original Crucifix or locks of John Lennon’s pubic hair on eBay, instead of further flooding the market with fraudulent fiction and worthless weight-loss diets. My advice, now that I’ve probably alienated just about everyone: Write from your heart, use your mind, embrace your true nature, don’t plagiarize.
Norm: What do you think is the future of reading/writing?
Reading and writing will be replaced soon with icons, hashtags and
emoticons. Publishing appears to be going the way of stick shifts and
coal-powered dial phones.
And for the more distant future,
publishing will go the way of a steel mill on Atlantis.
In spite of that, if you are one of the lucky ones who can still read and write, keep those skills sharp. You and your legacy services will ultimately be in very high demand and you can command incredible consulting fees. “Can you tell me what this says?” “Sure. Those are instructions for a home lobotomy kit. I would be glad to walk you through the procedure. Uh … can you pay me up front?”
Norm: How long have you been writing and and how long did it take you to get your first major book contract? What was the name of the book?
I started my formal writing career in 2008. Since then, I have
written ten books, eight of them novels, two non-fiction political
works. I got a book contract right off with my very first novel. I
won’t name it because the whole deal was a fraud.
The publisher, if they can even be called that, hijacked it and I now have no access to the book. Neither does anyone else, since they haven’t released it.
I’m not sure what their psychology is on this. It seems to me it would be in everyone’s best interest to put the book out but they have some more ingenious marketing approach involving invisibility and keeping the public from purchasing it.
Let this be a lesson: Research
anyone who offers you a book deal. Plus, if they ask for money, there
is a 112% chance they are not on the level. It’s better to
self-publish than to get hooked up with an unscrupulous publisher.
Anyway, after that sour deal, I had three books published by Melange Books out of Minneapolis. They were very nice people, but it was not a very good match. They mostly do romance and eroticism, I do political and social satire, coming-of-age. They dropped my books. Now all of my books are available through a small publisher, Literary Vagabond Books. They are definitely very weird people! But we have a great relationship. All is well that ends well.
Norm: What do you want your work to do? Amuse people? Provoke thinking?
John: Japan’s wonderful, best-selling, most popular author is Haruki Murakami. In an interview, he once gave this advice to new writers: Make every page interesting. That’s all I try to do. So yes, I try to entertain, enlighten, inspire, inform … but above all, be interesting. Which is not to say I ignore the basic elements. A good novel has to have a good story, engaging dialogue, intriguing characters. But you’d be amazed how much of that naturally occurs when you make every page interesting.
Norm: What has been the best part about being published?
John: Attention. I have always been attention-starved. So now, with the deluge of adulation, requests for interviews, caricatures of me which pop up as bathroom wall graffiti wherever my books are sold, and the steady stream of death threats I get on Facebook and in my email Inbox, I feel that I’m finally getting the attention I deserve.
Norm: How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing and do you have a specific writing style?
John: My current and recent environments have to date not much affected my writing in the least. So far my novels have all been set in America, but written in Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Nepal, India, etc. I did draw some inspiration and specific knowledge from my time in southeast Asia for Petrocelli, which is about trafficking from that part of the world for prostitution in the U.S. My next novel, Love Connection, is set in Japan, so everything about it will be informed by my living here.
I don’t know why but I’ve been compared to Elmore James. I have never read anything by Elmore James, so I can’t be accused of copying his style. My style is sparse, leaving much description of characters and physical furnishings for the reader to fill in. There is a lot of tongue-in-cheek in my writing. I want people to either laugh or cry. If they’re just drooling, I’m not doing my job.
Norm: What genre are you most comfortable writing?
Political and social satire. I love making fun of things, not so
much people as situations. Three of my novels are hard-core satire
but all of them have elements of humor drawn from a sardonic view of
world events and the human condition.
The most “uncomfortable” writing I’ve done was Petrocelli, which is a gruesome, very accurate portrayal of the lives of young people abducted into the world of sex slavery and sweatshop factories. It’s a horrifying, ugly world. Immersing myself in it for both the research and writing of the book gave me nightmares. I probably won’t do it again.
Norm: Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Summarize your writing process.
John: I never outline. I wing it. And as I said before and was not being facetious, I “sleep on it”. Lots of REM sleep is a writer’s best friend.
I usually start with a character and a situation. A frustrated diction coach faces catastrophic tooth decay and must decide whether to have all his teeth pulled out. A priest finds out that his favorite bonk-buddy nun is running an online gambling casino out of the convent. Perhaps this description of a typical day of writing will help:
I turn on the fan. Then I suddenly realize I that forgot to take out
the garbage. So I do that. Of course, now I see there’s all sorts
of gunk in the bottom of the garbage container from the tomatoes that
went bad and the mushrooms that turned to slime. So I have to clean
up that mess.
Finally, I pour a cup of coffee and sit down to write. Oops! Forgot to check my FB account. Whoa!! 87 new notices. People loved that video I posted of a kitten chasing a rhinoceros. Hmm. Bad news. It looks like over 30 people deleted me as a friend. Cold!
did I do? Could it have been the blog I wrote about Ted Cruz being a
exhausted. Writing sure takes it out of me.
decide I need a nap. I’ll get 20 winks, wake up fresh, ready to
try to sleep. But they are slaughtering a yak next door, beating it
to death with garden rakes. You’d think they could come up with a
more humane way to kill the thing. Jeeez!
I take a sip of wine from a newly opened bottle to try to relax. I decide to just finish the whole thing off.
next few hours are a blank. I wake up in the bathtub. I’m hugging a
bag of fertilizer. The doorbell is ringing.
run to see who it is. Ah! The post man. My new Fiction Writing
software has arrived. Excellent! This could be the shot in the arm my
spend the rest of the day trying to install the program. My Windows
laptop keeps giving me error messages.
library catalog file ‘clusterfck.dll’ is missing. Please
reinstall operating system.
five hours of this, I am famished!
head down to the drive-thru window for Magic Rainbow Happy Luck. It’s
Chinese fast food. But they refuse to serve me because I’m on a
bicycle. I go inside. Everything is in Chinese. I order something by
pointing. They bring me monkey entrails on a croissant. Not very
would be a total waste of time, except thinking ahead, I brought my
computer. Munching away, being careful to keep the blood and grease
from dripping into my keyboard, I begin . . .
upon a time, there was a large tree in the middle of an island. A boy
of eleven years old leaned against it. A stranger approached him from
behind. The boy turned. The man was wearing a ‘Ted Cruz for
Alright! Now we’re getting somewhere!
Norm: What helps you focus when you write and do you find it easy reading back your own work?
John: I love writing. Just sitting down to write, I am immediately focused, thoroughly engaged and entertained, often surprised and delighted with what comes out. That doesn’t mean it’s any good. It just means that writing to me is a total hoot! The only creative activity I’ve enjoyed more was writing and producing songs. I used to be a music producer/audio engineer back in the 20th Century. I still occasionally write songs and much to the horror of my neighbors, try to sing them. They usually call for emergency services, so now I keep the windows closed and sing into a pillow.
Norm: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
John: I am heavily involved in political writing currently. The political situation in America is maddening and frightening. I publish articles both in progressive online magazines and at my own BLOGSITE
When I’m not ranting like a rabid Leon Trotsky, I’m at the beginning stages of creating my latest novel, “Love Connection”. It is set in Japan and based on true stories of elderly Japanese citizens being conned into becoming mules for drug smuggling cartels out of Nigeria.
Norm: What are you future projects?
John: Next in the pipeline is a spoof on the self-help crazes in America during the late 80s and 90s called Sex, Lies, and Coffee Beans. Then a novel set in 19th Century sub-Saharan Africa called The Last Giraffe, about the worship and devouring of giraffes, respectively by two competing tribes. It’s a delicious exploration of metaphysics and primitive war.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your work?
John: If your readers have a lot of time on their hands and have exhausted every other option, they can visit one of these sites, any one of which gives a whole new meaning to the idea of self-aggrandizement:
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Q: “I know your birthday is coming up, John. Would you prefer an Astin Martin or a Lamborghini?”
A: “Please just send the equivalent amount in cash to my bank account in Switzerland.”
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors
John: Thank you, Norm! I consider it an honor to have been interviewed by you.