Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Interview: John Zunski, author of Cemetery Street

Author Bio: “John was born and raised in suburban Philadelphia. In 2003, he sailed across the country in a U-haul and settled in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana. He is the Author of four novels. Cemetery Street is his first. His second, Shangri-la Trailer Park will be published in the fall of 2011. Dirty Bum for President - the story of a unique candidate and Nightwatching - a ghost story, will be published in 2012. He is currently working on Cemetery Street's sequel, Montana Rural. “

What inspires your stories?

Once upon a time I owned a Dekhockey rink, then I was a firefighter for six years, now I own a small town bar; that being said, I’ve been blessed with incredible voyeuristic opportunities. I’ve encountered interesting characters over the years, it would be a wasted opportunity if I didn’t translate some of those characteristics onto the page. Great characters give good stories; it’s my job to add variables and make the stories memorable.

What genre do you gravitate toward and why?

I dabble in many genres. Why? I would be doing a disservice limiting myself to one genre. Cemetery Street is a coming of age tragedy/tearjerker –Shangri-La Trailer Park is a dark comedy. I also have a political satire and a ghost story in the pipeline. A writer friend calls my tendencies schizophrenic – simply because I don’t linger within one genre. A common link through my work is that the settings are contemporary. That could change in the future, but my ‘schizophrenia’ would have to deepen.

What are your work habits like?

I prefer writing in the wee hours. I usually take an evening nap, wake up around two AM and write at least two hours before turning in. Living in the mountains of Montana, the calm of the night resonates with me – during the summer, when the windows are open, I find inspiration in the sound of the creek or on occasion, the sounds of wildlife - especially coyotes and wolves. During the winter, the full moon on snow is super inspiring. If I’m lucky, I’ll catch the shadow of the muse lurking within the night.

What do you consider your best work?

That’s a hard question, it’s like asking a parent what child is their favorite. Cemetery Street is emotional – which I love. Any book that elicits emotion is a winner with me. Shangri-La Trailer Park is gritty, it really looks at the dark side of life with a humorous, if not offensive eye. Nightwatching – my ghost story – packs a wallop, it has more twists and turns than a mountain road. My current work – Montana Rural – has some intense moments that have left members of my writer’s group cursing the characters for their actions. That being said, can I take a powder on the question and give you an answer in twenty years?

Do you plot out your novels in advance or do you write on the fly?

I’ve set out to do both. Cemetery Street was plotted, as is its forthcoming sequel Montana Rural. Shangri-La Trailer Park, Nightwatching and Dirty Bum for President piloted themselves.

What experience do you want for your readers?

I want them to have an emotional experience. I hope readers relate to my characters and have lingering images of them. My job is complete when long after a reader finishes reading one of my books the characters resonates in their memories like old friends.

Are any of your character traits or settings based on real life?

That goes without saying! Most characters and settings are, but I always will add extra elements. I’ve been asked if Cemetery Street is autobiographical – other than the settings, it is not. I believe you have to add realistic settings – they’re the canvass on which the painting of the story rests. It would be an injustice to craft a beautiful picture on a paper bag. It cheapens the art.

What are your most significant challenges when you write?

Getting started. Once I silence the prattle in my mind and fall into my chair, magic happens.

What are you currently working on?

Montana Rural – it’s a story of a dysfunctional rural fire district in Montana.
Do you have any writing advice you would like to share with aspiring authors?
Be tenacious and never, ever, give up! Actively seek insight and criticism, and when someone criticizes you or your work, use their words as fuel to fire your creative engines. Stay true to the passion that initially inspired you to write.


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Thank you, John! The book looks great. - LR

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