John M Donovan
The Pipeline: What's In There Now
Despite popular demand, we present another interview with John M Donovan, author of Fluffball! and four other novels.
Q. So. What’s new?
A. That’s your first question?
Q. It is. Is that a problem? That’s not the second question. Well, wait, I guess it is.
A. It just seems a little broad. We have a new baby goat named Hedy and I have a new adjustable desk where I can sit or—get this—stand up. It’s crazy.
Q. I assumed you would know I was referring to any new novels you might have written. But I wouldn’t mind hearing more about the goat.
A. She’s a cutie. She was born on a damn cold night in January and her ears were frostbitten—so she lost half of each one. But she’s a tough cookie and we love her. Do you want to know about the adjustable desk?
Q. No, I’ve seen adjustable desks. What’s new in the writing world?
A. Well, my short story called “The Pastor’s Visions” has been accepted by and will appear in the May edition of Scarlet Leaf Review. A publication called Failbetter rejected my story “Driving the Drive” but said there was much to like and invited me to keep submitting. I also entered a story called “The Snappy Cola Clock” in the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition—fingers are crossed on that one. I don’t seem to do well in competitions. But I have a handful of other stories out.
Q. And on the novel-writing front?
A. Kerouac’s Ghost is in editing and I like it more each time I go through it. It’s set in the Colby County universe but it’s not as nostalgic as Trombone or Love and Corn, and not as dark as The Rocheville Devil.
Q. Would a reader have to know something about Jack Kerouac to appreciate it?
A. Jesus, can we stop looking for reasons to hate it before it’s even published? No, Kerouac’s character is introduced gradually with all the information a reader might need if they know nothing about him. Anyway, I also need to get a cover designed, so maybe late spring on this one. If I had been thinking ahead I would have planned to release it on Kerouac’s 100th birthday, March 12.
Q. But you weren’t thinking ahead?
A. That is correct.
Q. What else is in the works?
A. I’ve got two or three novels kick-boxing in my head right now for the right to be written first. I say two or three because I might combine two with the same theme into one book.
Q. Is that theme kick-boxing?
A. No, why would you—? Oh, I mentioned kick-boxing in the previous answer. No, the theme would be online relationships and the tentative title is Ripples in the Catfish Pond. So here’s why I haven’t figured out how to approach it yet. In one narrative, the main character’s marriage falls apart and he ends up getting involved in an online relationship. In the other narrative, the main character’s marriage falls apart and he ends up getting involved in an online relationship.
Q. So can’t you just write one or the other?
A. It’s possible. But here’s the deal: A few years ago, before I even published The Fraternity in 2012, I decided to write a potboiler.
Q. Which, as I understand it, is a book that isn’t necessarily on a par with the writer’s more literary work, but which should reach a large audience to keep money coming in and, as the name implies, the pot boiling.
A. Yes, particularly if the writer boils a lot of his or her food. Anyway, this was an erotic mystery, and I sent queries to agents who specialized in erotica and mystery. Nobody bit. Nobody even asked to read it. I couldn’t even sell a potboiler. But! There are scenes in that book—including one set on a stormy night in an Oklahoma ghost town—that are among the finest I’ve ever written. So—do I combine the stories? And if so, is it tiresome to read about a character who goes from one online relationship to another? I’m still wrestling with this.
Q. Maybe you should set it aside for now and work on the other one.
A. I might. That one is about the small town of Colby City and how its various residents respond to and are affected by the 2016 election.
Q. I remember that election.
A. There’s only been a few trillion words written about it already. But I’m going to add about 80,000 more in the hope of helping prevent anything like it ever happening again.