J-F. Dubeau, author of The Life Engineered, talks about writing, reading, and his upcoming novel,
A God in the Shed.
Hi J-F! Welcome to Myths Mists & Musings. Rumor has it that you have a lot on your plate these days. Can you give the readers a rundown of what you’ve been up to in recent months?
I don’t know when this is going up, but at the time of answering the question I’m almost two weeks past the launch of my first book, The Life Engineered. That doesn’t mean the work is done though. My current writing focus is on finishing the first draft to the sequel which is titled Arch-Android. Once that draft is done I have to finish another book for The Ed Greenwood Group. Outside of writing though I have a tight deadline for painting toy soldiers for an event at the end of March, I’m starting a new job and I have to move in the next few weeks.
What’s really consuming me though, and is more relevant to this interview is that I’m entering the final weeks of funding for my second book on Inkshares; A God in the Shed.
Tell us more about A God in the Shed:
A God in the Shed is a Fantasy Horror book set in a tiny village in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. It’s a complete departure from what I’m trying to do with The Life Engineered. While my first book is sort of the introduction to a science fiction epic world, A God in the Shed is a much more personal story set is a world that is very close to reality and in the recent past instead of the far future.
Summarize the plot in ten words or less:
An ancient, angry god gets trapped in a backyard shed.
What makes A God in the Shed unique?
Two things: I really like the system of magic. It’s a three-tiered system that allows for endless wonders while still fitting snuggly in the realm of plausibility.
More importantly though the characters and their relationship to the world around them. I made a concerted effort to stay away falling into patterns, messages and gimmicks. The cast of characters all have their role to play one way or another and their interaction with the world is meant to blur the lines between horror and beauty. I like to say that the story is about terrible beauty and beautiful terror. The nature of the titular god is the most in-your-face symptom of that.
You’ve described A God in the Shed as a suburban fantasy with horror. On a scale of puppies to The Exorcist, how scary would you say it is?
Nightbreed. Sorry, that’s not exactly accurate. Part of what I’m trying to do with A God in the Shed is blur the lines of what is scary. While there are certainly scenes that are gruesome and others that are suspenseful, most of the fear I’m hoping to generate is existential. I want the characters and world to feel real enough that it makes you wonder.
Are there any real-life experiences that inspired elements of your story?
I borrow a few anecdotal experiences from my life and personal history. Mostly small things recast in a more modern light. There is however no important life event that is inserted into the story as a pseudo-biographical retelling. My main characters all borrow aspects from my own personality I guess. A personal failing here, a character flaw there, maybe one character is who I would have liked to be when I was their age and another who I would have liked to have as a friend at a time when I needed it. Nothing too profound though. I think all characters borrow from the writer who imagines them like that.
Do you have any other creative outlets, besides writing?
As mentioned above, I paint toy soldiers. I’m addicted to tabletop war gaming. I buy expensive plastic models, assemble them, remodel them and paint them. Then I put them on a table and play with them by rolling dice. It’s awesome.
I also draw and sketch. I’m just good enough to enjoy myself but not good enough that anyone wants to pay for what I draw. It’s kind of a perfect balance.
What sort of books (genre, writing style, etc.) do you enjoy reading most?
Anything that looks at things in a new way. Science Fiction is the easy go-to for that but I love non-fiction that takes a fresh look at certain topics. Mary Roach has written an amazing series of non-fiction books that are educational but shockingly non-biased, allowing the reader to learn all aspects of a subject. I guess anything that will show me a new take on an old idea or expand my horizons I’ll enjoy.
When did you realize that you wanted to be an author?
I’ve had ‘writing a book’ in my bucket list all my life and I’ve always told stories one way or another but it’s only when doing the National Novel Writing Month challenge for the first time, halfway through the month I realized I wouldn’t be able to stop doing this. So I figured; “If I’m going to be writing books now, I might as well look into getting better at it.”
What have you learned about yourself, your writing, and the process of self-promotion since joining Inkshares?
I haven’t learned so much as gotten solid confirmation that I really hate self-promoting. I was glad to discover however that my writing tends to attract some very smart and very cool people. I tend not to write for market, meaning that I don’t follow trends when coming up with stories. It’s not a very good financial move and certainly does nothing to attract a crowd of readers, but it does mean I get readers who are discerning of what they want and willing to commit to a story when reading a book. Interacting with my readers has been an absolute delight. They’re all amazing people.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers out there?
Write. I know so many aspiring writers who read about writing, write about wanting to write, discuss writing and writing memes and what they’ll do once they’re a famous published writer. They’ll talk about their ideas and characters. That’s all well and good but at some point you need to sit down and write the book. Write it and finish it. Then write another one. And another. Writing’s like any other skill; you get better with practice. Don’t try to make your first book your magnum opus. Every book should be better than the previous so if you want to write an awesome book, write a few terrible ones first.
Off the top of your head, give us three writing prompts:
Coffee plants die off as a result of a world-wide plague. Cities are subjected to lethargic riots that end relatively early so everyone can get a good night’s sleep but are renewed every morning with ever increasing bitterness.
Aliens, in an effort to better study humans and human behaviour are artificially enhancing household pets through cybernetics to serve as their eyes and ears. One such pet starts questioning its allegiance and whether or not to side with its human companions.
A man goes off to work at some advanced physics laboratory. Everything seems fine until he gets home that day and discovers that something happened and he’s moved to a slightly different parallel dimension or alternate reality. There is no going back. This is the story of him learning to live in this new, slightly askew world.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee. With sugar. And chocolate. And milk. And other flavourings that would make a true coffee connoisseur grit his teeth as if nails were being drawn across a chalkboard.
About J-F Dubeau
J-F. Dubeau is a graphic designer and brand specialist from Montreal, Canada. As part of learning to cope with a crippling addiction to storytelling and long-form narrative, he has spent the past five years writing and learning to write. When he’s not writing or winning his bread and butter, J-F. can be found hiking or snowboarding. While he does both, J-F. hates jogging about as much as he loves telling stories; thus, the balance is maintained.
Learn more about J-F. Dubeau’s projects at jfdubeau.com
A God in the Shed can be purchased on Inkshares and Amazon