Knowing that my good friend, Jonathan D Blundell was recently about to publish his first book - St Peter’s Brewery - I was fascinated to hear the back story of the book, and wanted to find out more.
I shot JD a few questions so he could unpack it a little for me:
JL: What were the seeds that made you start in the first place?
JD: As far as the seeds for the book, I guess it really depends on how far back you want to go. I've wanted to write and publish a book for some time now. I never really settled on a topic though as far as non-fiction goes and started 2 or 3 other projects along the way that never really went anywhere. I even started one a while back that I blogged as I wrote but I lost interest in the storyline and moved on.
When I heard about NaNoWriMo.org, I decided I'd take them up on the challenge. Essentially the challenge is to write a novel in one month (the month of November). Write at least 50,000 words and you "win." I wasn't sure I could do it, but having a deadline and focusing solely on writing and not going back and editing along the way.
I initially came up with the idea of a drifter, or a loner who worked at a post office (not sure why) who comes to find out the importance of community along the way. A few ideas led to another and St. Peter's Brewery was born.
As I wrote, I found myself calling on a number of situations and experiences I've had personally, as well as the experiences and stories people have shared on our podcast. So in many ways, the book I wrote is biographical, just the names, times and exact situations have been changed :-).
JL: I'm not sure if I've properly understood the process that even got you to this point? Did the book evolve in a planned way, or have you found yourself at the point of publishing almost by accident?
JD: Once I finished writing the book I wasn't totally sure what direction I would take with the book. I knew I'd like to see it through to publication, but wasn't certain about it. I decided to take a month of, do nothing with it and essentially let it lie. I did however print out the initial draft in "book" form at our local copy shop. I printed a copy for my mom for Christmas as well as Laurie (JD’s wife), Trucker Frank and myself.
Their responses were very positive so I decided to move forward with preparing the book for publication.
I asked for volunteer editors and sent the book to 4 or 5 people as well after the first of the year. I received 2 edits from those 4 or 5 and I began my own process of editing the book. Editing is not something I get a huge thrill out of (as I've mentioned on our podcast :-)) so it became a bit of a chore for me. I had hoped to have the book edited, corrected and ready to print by summer but it just kept getting pushed back further and further.
Finally as November 2009 approached and I debated taking part in NaNoWriMo again, I decided to take the month and really focus on finishing the book.
So the past few weeks I've finished all the suggestions I found in my original edit, the suggestions made by those who edited the book for me and read through, edited and corrected it again 2 more times (and I'm sure people will still find things we've missed :-)).
After that, it was a matter of getting the format right and finalizing the cover. I've laid the book out in InDesign and designed the cover in Photoshop and formatted the Kindle version with HTML. Now it's just a matter of finalizing the cover and we're off to the races.
Of course self-publishing has its drawbacks. There's no giant marketing arm behind the book, no upfront money, just me, word of mouth, what publicity I can get on social networks and Amazon.com.
Of course the upside is, using CreateSpace.com, my book will automatically be added to Amazon's vast catalog, I'm not out any money up front (it's a print-on-demand service), and I get more money per book that I sell (vs. a contract with a publisher).
JL: It’s the 1st time I’ve read a book using the familiar author’s technique of using elements of real and known people to form the characters of the novel, so it’s been very cool - as I know the author - to recognise some of the guys in there.
Aside from those snippets of real life that have made it into the St Peter’s Brewery in one way or another, what other literary influences do you think you may have thrown into the mix?
JD: I'm not sure I have too many varying literary influences, but there may be some in there that I'm not fully aware of.
I've started reading more and more over the last few years but I read very little fiction. I read "The Shack" by William Young this past summer (2009), after my book was already written. Before that, I re-read the "Chronicles of Narnia" series right before the first movie came out and also read Frank Peretti's "Piercing the Darkness" in 2005 or so. Other than those few books, I primarily read non-fiction, which probably influenced content much more than style.
Of course I should probably point to my Mass Communications degree and several years of working at local newspapers as having a big influence on my writing style as well. Journalistically, I always try to let the subjects in the story tell the story. I try to keep my thoughts and opinions to a minimum. That's probably why you see so much dialog in the book.
JL: What’s next for JD the writer?
JD: Well, I guess to begin with, a lot of grass-roots marketing! :-) Self-publishing definitely has it's ups and downs. One of the downsides is you're not only responsible for the writing of the content but also the editing, layout, design and marketing of the book.
So I think I'll see how well this book does and then go from there. I've had a couple people as if I'll write a sequel to the book. I'm not sure I want to go that direction yet. I imagine everyone will want to know what happens with Jimmy and Kim but I also like leaving that door open to the reader's imagination.
I was very tempted to start another novel this past November as part of the 2009 NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writers Month) but decided to hold of this year and get my first novel ready for publication first. Perhaps next year I'll take another shot at a novel.
At some point I'd like to take a stab at non-fiction. Perhaps something related to church history, current issues of our faith or maybe even something biographical. There have been a couple folks I've considered really delving into and researching, so that may be the next project down the road.
It'd be great if I could figure out a way to make a decent living off of my writing (both with books and my blog) and focus primarily on it and the podcast but until then, I'll stick to my day job.
JL: If St Peter’s Brewery was made into a movie, and there was a trailer playing in the movie theater, what would the voice over guy with the deep voice be saying about it?
JD: Wow. Great question! Do I get to pick who plays the various parts?
Whenever I think of the movie guy it always reminds me of over dramatic or horror movie trailers. I'm not totally sure that would fit this particular story/movie but let's see if I can answer your question either way.
A young man... trying to escape his past...
A pub.... in the most unlikely of places...
A group of friends... all finding sanctuary...
Within St. Peter's Brewery... a sanctuary for all.
Based on the New York Times bestselling book, by Jonathan Blundell.
Take a fresh look at an old love story.
St. Peter's Brewery
Coming to a theater and pub near you.
Ha ha! Maybe I should have used that for the back cover instead! :-)
• JD would like to invite anyone reading johnnylaird to come join in the discussions on the St Peter's Brewery website whether they've read the book or not.
• Join in with the Flickr group and share pictures of your own favo(u)rite sanctuaries
• St Peters Brewery at Amazon’s Kindle store here, with paperback version on the way soon.
• JD Blogs at Stranger in Strange Land and is co-host of the Something Beautiful podcast with Headphonaught and Stewart Cutler