Geetanjali Mukherjee

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

How I Write: Authors on Their Writing Process - Joseph Ferguson

Today's interview is with short story author and poet, Joseph Ferguson

1.           When did you first start writing?
At some point early on in college I decided I was a writer. I was always able to skate through school subjects I knew little or nothing about if the grade was based on essay questions or papers. I also spent my childhood writing comic books which usually involved Godzilla-like beasts terrorizing cities. Lacking any other talents, it would seem I was condemned to write.

2.            What are your books about? Are you self / traditionally published or hybrid?
My current book Southbound is about the human condition as experienced by a rather larger-than-life character called Basement Man; a guy full of stories, full of bluster, and full of bravado, who is insecure deep down and cannot win for losing.

3.           What led to your love for literature? Any favorite books / teachers / writing mentors?
I learned to read at a very young age and so had at least one skill to show off with in grammar school. Couple that with being an only child; and books became my most reliable friends.

4.           What's your writing process like? Do you outline? Do you write by hand / type / dictate?
I tinker. I keep a number of in-progress works on my laptop, open a few of them while I’m watching TV, and fiddle around with them until one takes off; then run with it.

5.           What's your editing process?
I’m working on my second short story collection, tentatively titled, Shillelagh Law, and following the same process I did with Southbound. That is read, read, and read, until I make it through several readings without making a change. Then read some more. By the time it’s ready, I never want to see any of the stories again.

6.           Any favorite apps / software / technology for writing?
Just Word. Though I do love the fact that technology has enabled me to self publish; basically for free. I will never go back to the submission/rejection treadmill.

7.           Any favorite apps / software / websites for marketing and promotion?
I’m promoting like crazy on Facebook. Pretty useless. I spent 30 + years writing propaganda in public relations, yet I am basically lost promoting my book.

8.           What did you find most / least useful in learning to write?
Took a creative writing course in college where basically our work was copied, handed out to the rest of the class, where everyone would dive in with criticism. Needed a thick skin, however, it was so much easier to see mistakes and understand why they were mistakes when other people made them than in your own work. So it forced you to see them in your own.

9.           Who or what inspires you? Where / how do you get your book ideas?
It helps to have lived a “life crowded with incident.” But life is such an absurd proposition; it’s all there for the taking. The problem, of course, is to put it into words. “Therein lies the rub.”

10.       When in the day do you usually write? For how long?
I have no schedule. No regimen. Kind of happens when it happens. Sometimes an idea or half a story will sit for years unfinished and one day, out of nowhere, the solution will hit me. Other times, I just have to write through it.

11.       Do you have a writing routine / schedule? Any specific rituals?
Not really. As I said, when not distracted by trying to promote, I try to open a few unfinished files, and fiddle around with them while watching TV.

12.       Where do you feel most inspired to write?
 Usually, when I am somewhere without paper, pencil, iPad, laptop, recorder, or any other means of getting it down.

13.       Describe your desk / writing corner / favorite writing spot.
 Unused. I actually have two rooms in my house that I designated “my office.” They have both become de facto closets.

14.       Do you listen to music while you write? What kind of music?
Used to do that a lot when I was young. Sometimes do it now. But it’s the laptop in front of the television that does it for me. I guess it has something to do with how bad television is these days. So dreadful, it forces me to write…or play solitaire.

15.       Do you ever get writers' block? What are some ways you get around it?
I’m in a continual state of writers’ block; which is why I have to fiddle with things until something takes.

16.       How do you make the time to write?
Have no idea how I did it when I was working. Back then I was continually assaulted by ideas, and usually, if they didn’t fit into the small space of a poem, they remained notions or partially written stories. Now that I’m retired, I no longer have ideas, but, as if by magic, I can now finish all the half-done stories, and ideas scribbled on bar napkins over the years.

17.       What project are you working on now?
As I said, my current project is putting together a short story collection entitled, Shillelagh Law. Unlike Southbound, which all focused on one character and added up to a novel of sorts, these tales are all unrelated. Some are coming-of-age, some horror or scifi, others, humorous vignettes. After that, I will likely do a poetry collection, and if I can figure out how to get the illustrations formatted, a spoof of “how-to-get-a-job books.”

18.       What books do you like to read? What are you reading now?
Anything and everything; though I prefer more literary work.  Right now, I am reading a manuscript written by the man I based the Basement Man character in Southbound on.

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:


A short story collection about 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 everyman for nobodies, he is ever adrift between the carrot of sobriety and the reality of carpe diem. Bowing only to the laws of Murphy, he can never decide whether the lucky ones are the survivors or those who died years ago.

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