An Interview with Me; More Than You Probably Wanted to Know

Hi everyone. For this week’s blog, I’m cheating. The interview below was published earlier this month on weirdsouth.com. It’s double the length of what’s below (here’s a direct link to the full text). Consider this a bit of a teaser.

Give us a brief description of your book(s). Feel free to list as many as you like.

Tattoos and Tans is about a guy from Eunice, Louisiana who moves back, after a decade working the tattoo-circuit in Texas and New Mexico, to open the town’s first tattoo shop. When trouble arises, the tattoo artist recruits his childhood friend, an intelligence analyst with a love/hate relationship to their hometown of Eunice, to come help him. 

All Saints’ Day of the Dead is about a West Virginia girl who seeks refuge from an abusive boyfriend, meeting up with her friends from a popular Cajun band in Lafayette, Louisiana. It involves themes of religion, the spiritual nature of music, and friendship. 

What brought you to write these stories? For instance, was it a personal experience that inspired you, your “day job” or perhaps an overactive imagination?

I started writing Tattoos and Tans on a lark, just to entertain my friend, who did actually open one of the first tattoo shops in our home town of Eunice. I never really intended to do anything with it, but in the process of writing that first novel, something awakened in me. My dormant dream of writing novels came to life. 

After I wrote the first book, the relative absence of edgy, South Louisiana literature in the commercial fiction market caught my attention. This will sound corny, but it’s true: since I don’t live in Louisiana anymore, starting New Bayou Books and trying to spark some kind of revolution in South Louisiana literature is what I’m doing to sort of give back. I believe there are some really great potential writers hiding in plain sight, and through my books, I am trying to draw them out (either because they dig what I’m writing or they think “I can do better than that”). 

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

It’s simple. I’m trying to write the kind of books I would want to read. Some of the key elements are: they are set in South Louisiana, where I grew up, they are written like people talk (not fancy, but colorful), and they involve characters you feel like you know . . . or in some cases, you wish you didn’t. For me, it’s all about creating an interesting character and setting them in motion, somewhere in Acadiana. From there, I layer in some sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Why? Because that’s the kind of book I want to read. 

Where does the story(stories) take place? 

In South Louisiana, also known as Acadiana, which includes 22 of the 64 parishes that make up Louisiana. I grew up in a town called Eunice, in St-Landry parish, and went to college in the much larger city of Lafayette. Though I haven’t lived in Louisiana in a good while, the place still has a grip on me. There’s just something about the colorful complexity of the area that sets the stage for some pretty compelling storytelling. But sadly, South Louisiana is grossly underrepresented in modern fiction. That’s really the reason I started New Bayou Books: to help do my part to bring South Louisiana literature to the rest of the world. 

How does setting play in the telling of the story?

I’ve lived in different parts of the world and talked with people from all sorts of places and walks of life, and every time I mention where I’m from, people light up. That’s because South Louisiana stands out as a wonderfully weird, welcoming place in a country that’s growing ever more homogeneous. That’s why I love setting my novels there–the place itself becomes a character. What I try to do is use the South Louisiana setting the same way I use my cousin Bruneaux’s Cajun spice mix: just sprinkle it lightly on everything, and watch it all come alive. 

Published by New Bayou Books

JR Reed started New Bayou Books to spark a revolution in Louisiana literature. The goal of the company is simple: to great writers out of the shadows to carry on the Louisiana literary tradition.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: