Welcome to a Tattered Remains Interview
Joe Ferguson has been working on his new book titled Shillelagh Law. It’s a short story collection; but this time the stories are unrelated like the Basement Man tales of adventure and Joe is currently in the editing stage of his forthcoming book.
So, if you are looking for a short story collection about a man who was labeled the Basement Man, moody drunk, sometime rock climber, absurdist philosopher, raconteur of the ridiculous, rogue, and not-so-merry prankster from the North End of Yonkers (aka Junkies Paradise). An every-man for nobodies, that is ever adrift between the carrot of sobriety and the reality of carpe diem. Bowing only to the laws of Murphy, who can never decide whether the lucky ones are the survivors or those who died years ago.
To hold you over until his new book is ready, give Southbound (which features the unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experiences and activities of the Basement Man) or How the West Was Wickedthat featured a story that Joe wrote titled Ouroburos.
If was a sure-fire opportunity to get know Joe and speak with him through the interview and various messages and to get to know more about the real Basement Man. I thoroughly enjoyed the absurd stories of Basement Man and I am confident you will too.
Enjoy the interview…
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
A: Probably sometime in my early college years; however, as I child I was always writing comic books which usually involved prehistoric creatures stomping though various urban centers. Also, I was always able to BS my way through any subject in school if there were essay questions or papers involved; so I really had no choice.
How did you come up with the title for Southbound?
A: Southbound is both a story title and the book’s title. The stories all focus on one main character and so add up to a novel of sorts, about a rather unusual every-man who can’t win for losing. Southbound is a double entendre denoting both a physical direction and a metaphor for when things go wrong. Add to that the fact it was the first Basement Man story written; and there you go.
How long did it take you to write Southbound?
A: Literally, 40 years in the making. The title story and “After the Crux,” were written for a college creative writing class back in the late 70s, while the rest surfaced throughout the years. The newest is about a year old.
Tell us a little about yourself? Perhaps something not many people know?
A: I wrote propaganda for a living for some 30 years, got laid off, and wound up driving a school bus. During my working life, I concentrated mostly on poetry since it was small enough to see the entire work in one glance, and short enough to fit into my schedule. Also, I was used to continually having poetry and poetic thoughts bombarding me. Now that I’m retired, I no longer have any inspiration, but I am suddenly able to finish all the half-done stories and books, and all the ideas scribbled on bar napkins over the years.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
A: Well, unlike nearly every other writer interview I’ve ever read, I have no work ethic whatsoever save excessive procrastination. I have no quota of words and feel as though I’ve had a productive day if, like Oscar Wilde, “I spent all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out.” These days, when not distracted by promoting Southbound, or putting together the next one (tentatively titled Shillelagh Law), I open a few works-in-progress on my laptop while watching television, and fiddle with them until one takes off.
Where do you get the information or idea for writing Southbound?
A: While there is a lot of me in Basement Man, the character is based on a friend of mine who created this persona for himself and moved in. It was so absurd and vivid, writing him was almost like transcribing. A good deal of the things he says, were actually said. But even when I made stuff up, the character was so clear in my mind, that I knew exactly what he would say or do.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
A: Aside from immoderate drinking, I like to ski, bike ride, hike, swim, and rock climb.
What book are you currently reading?
A: I’m actually reading a manuscript the real Basement Man is writing.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
A: So far it’s been surprisingly positive. I would have thought Southbound was a book you would either love or hate. I guess the haters are keeping their peace.
Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?
A: Yes, but drunk driving is no longer legal.
Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
A: Been giving away far more than I’ve sold, and so far, don’t think it has garnered me a single review.
What authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
A: Anything by Harry Crews, Jack Kerouac, Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Hemingway, Kafka, Flan O’Brien, Flannery O’Connor, T.C. Boyle; poets such as Emily Dickinson, William Carlos Williams, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Dylan Thomas; and playwrights such as Edward Albee, Eugene O’Neil, Shakespeare, and Tennessee Williams…The list goes on. When I was 19, I used to carry around a copy of Sartre’s, Nausea the way holy rollers carry bibles. Not sure what that says about me.
Does Southbound have a lesson? Moral?
A: It is utterly amoral.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
A: Pretty much all of them. Getting up at 4 a.m. to drive a school bus was quite trying; but my last professional writing gig was a Kafkaesque nightmare that could only have happened to me (or, I suppose, Basement Man). My boss couldn’t write his way out of a paper bag and expected me to do the same. Well, at least I collected unemployment for that one and that let me get some good climbing in.
Can you tell us more about the real Basement man that wasn’t mentioned in Southbound?
A: As I mentioned earlier, he is an author in his own right; and one with much better work habits than me. One thing he did (or at least claimed to have done…which in a way is even sicker) was bury bottles of cheap port throughout Yonkers against the possibility of being too broke to drink some night.
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
A: Was going to say something facetious like, the Marquis De Sade for no real reason; but I think I’ll go with James Joyce to see if in person, I can understand one single sentence from beginning to end.
When did you decide to write Southbound?
A: When I’d done enough Basement Man stories to think it might be a good idea.
What is your biggest pet peeve or something that annoys you the most?
A: People stupid enough to vote against their own interests.
Are you working on anything presently?
A: Yes. As I said I’m putting together Shillelagh Law. It’s another short story collection; but this time they are unrelated. The stories are already written, so I’m basically reading and rereading them until I can go through all of them a few times without having to change or fix something. So far, haven’t made it through once without a tweak.
What is your writing space like?
A: Like someplace I never go. I actually established two different offices in my house; but as I said, I usually work on a laptop while watching TV.
I’d like to take the opportunity to thank J.B. for affording me this opportunity and for his support. I would also like to commend him on the Tattered Remains website. Great job!
I hope everyone enjoyed reading the interview and getting to know a little more about Joe Ferguson.
Joseph Ferguson is an author, poet, and journalist appearing in a variety of small press, regional, and national publications. He wrote propaganda for a living for a variety of entities for some 25 years.
His recent collection of short fiction, Southbound, follows the exploits of one character, Basement Man.
He is a former editor and critic for Hudson Valley , ran the Fiction Workshop for the Poughkeepsie Library District, and regularly reviews books and videos for Climbing, The American Book Review, Kirkus Indie, and a number of other publications.
He also sells rock climbing t-shirts through his website: http://www.bumluckhome.com/
How the West Was Wicked
Both of the novels can be purchased from the Amazon page for Joseph Ferguson.