This series is my excuse to satisfy my curiosity about what makes writers tick. The hope is that by exploring how writers got to their craft, how they interact with books and their process, I might learn a little more about my own.
Recently I got the chance to talk with J.R. Dubeau the author of The Life Engineered and A God in the Shed. J.R. is a longtime Inkshares alum, having won the Sword and Laser collection contest last year. This year he’s publishing a dark fantastical mystery that I can’t wait to read. Here’s a little about our current leading man:
About J.F. Dubeau
I don’t want to be a writer. I want to write. Telling stories is both what I seem to do best and what I most enjoy doing. As a graphic designer and brand specialist I’m always looking for the narrative in whatever project I’m working on. I’ve always gravitated towards hobbies with a strong storytelling element to them; improvisation, role playing games, etc. Even my preferences in visual arts lean in the direction of pieces that want to tell a story.
It’s strange that it took me until so late in life to discover how much I adore writing. Especially long form narratives like novels and series. I’ve written several books but only two so far have been deserving of being published.
The Life Engineered, (winner of the Sword & Laser Collection contest) and A God in the Shed. I have a lot of other ideas I want to bring to life and hopefully I’ll get the opportunity.
I dream of one day having the privilege to write for a living, concentrating on typing new worlds into being. I hope you’ll be a part of that by supporting me and pre-ordering A God in the Shed.
1. What are you currently reading?
Right now I’m reading Canticle for Leibowitz for the Sword & Laser book club. I tend to usually read two things at the same time; one fiction and one non-fiction. I just finished re-reading
Mary Roach’s ‘Stiff’.
2. Ereader or Traditional?
Doesn’t matter to me. I tend to prefer the practicality of an ebook but the aesthetics and texture of a real book. I work a lot in printing as a designer so I have a certain affection for the printed mediums.
3. What is your favorite book?
Clive Barker’s Galilee. There’s something beautifully bittersweet about that book.
4. Why do you think reading is important?
I don’t! I think that absorbing information, stories and narratives are important but I don’t think the chosen method is important. Of course I favour books because I love reading, but as the advent of audio book has taught me, the important part is the content.
5. What is the one book (other than your own) that you would recommend to others?
I’m tempted to say Galilee but that’s not a good recommendation. It speaks to me but might not do as well for others. I’d say if you haven’t read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn then that is a definitive must.
1. What made you want to become a writer?
NaNoWriMo. Or rather, I’ve always wanted to write a book. NaNoWriMo seemed like a good way to get that off my bucket list. Midway through it though I discovered that this ‘writing’ thing was an addiction I wouldn’t be able to shake. Becoming a writer is just a means to writing more.
2. Why do you write?
Pleasure. The euphoric joy of having a story be told by characters of my own making.
3. What was the first thing you wrote?
A horrible, boring and unreadable vampire novel.
4. Which writers inspire you?
I like Clive Barker’s cadence and style but I love David Brin’s inventive optimism about the future.
5. Are you a planner or a seat of the pants writer?
A little from column A and a little from column B. I like to plan my course of action before I start writing but once I get into the motion of writing, I tend not to stop until I’m done, even if it means making mistakes I’ll have to fix later.
6. What are you currently writing?
Answers to an interview. Seriously though, I’m finishing the first draft of the sequel to The Life Engineered. So it’s science fiction.
7. Why this particular genre?
I like the challenge of writing something plausible in the frame of the demands of scientific reality while also being able to explore various versions of the future.
8. From where do you glean ideas for your writing?
I don’t know. I’m always terrified that I’m stealing ideas. Usually I find something in someone else’s narrative that I want to either explore in more depth or think should have gone differently and iterate until it becomes what I hope is my own thing.
9. What advice would you give a fledgling writer just starting on the path to building their own novel?
I’m not going to break any ground by saying this but just write. Don’t overthink or over plan. Just write and put it out there. You’ll never get better if you don’t write and have your writing critiqued by others.
10. A new writer is suffering with writer’s block. What advice would you give them to break through?
If it’s white page syndrome, just write. Forget quality or even common sense, just dirty your page with words. If you’re stuck on a plot point, move to another section of your book and come back to it later. Don’t try to force the plot. Your readers will notice.
On your Book
1. Tell the readers about what makes your book unique.
‘A God in the Shed’ is special because it’s a juggling trick of contrasts. I only came to realize this recently while re-reading some portions but in a macro sense, it’s a story about the places where extremes circle back onto themselves. Where extreme beauty becomes ugly, the worst of horrors become magnificent and the most unbelievable magics fall into the natural order of things.
2. What do you love about your protagonist? What do you hate about them?
I have a few protagonists but let’s talk about Venus McKenzy who is central for the first portion of the book. I like her because she’s a dumb teenager but smart enough to recognize when she’s making mistakes. She’s not an adult in a tween’s body. Also, unlike the current trends for female characters, she’s not a strong woman because she’s violent or angry or a fighter. She’s whip-smart, clever but human, which is important if I want her to react realistically to the horrors she faces. I hate her because she’s significantly smarter than I am and that’s difficult to write for.
3. Who would you want to play your protagonist in the movie adaptation of your book?
I have no idea. One of those Fanning kids if there’s still one of the appropriate age. Unnaturally talented those kids are.
4. Are you planning on continuing the story with a sequel and/or series?
The book is planned as a trilogy. Hopefully a real trilogy and I won’t get carried away and write seven book. I like my tales to have endings. Though I’m not averse to telling a different story in the same universe.
5. Is there anything else you want readers to know?
If there’s one thing I want to add it would be that I don’t want to be a writer. I just want to write. I never realized how important it was to encourage creatives until I was the one with an addiction to feed. People underestimate the impact they have with so small a gesture as just pre-ordering a book on Inkshares or commenting on a part of a book they liked. Being part of a creative’s journey to being able to do what they love, what they need to be doing, is huge to the creative, no matter how tiny it might be to the supporter. Find something you like from someone trying to break in their industry and support the hell out of it.
Excerpt from The God in the Shed
Regrets are the instruments by which we learn. We tend not
to repeat those things we regret. A remorse, I think, is a much
deeper thing. I tend not to dwell on regrets. For all the pain
they’ve caused me, they have allowed me to grow and become a
better man, sometimes despite myself. I regret how I treated my
first love, but it taught me how to better live with my wife. I
regret not working very hard in school, but now I know to apply
myself in my work. I feel bad about the things I regret, but I
wouldn’t take a single one back.
My remorses however, I would do anything to go back and
prevent the circumstances that brought those to life, and they
The worst however came at a young age. I was too much of a
child to know better, but that doesn’t take away from the pain
I’ve caused, lives I’ve destroyed and the hardships I’ve
It was during my last summer in Saint-Ferdinand. Not my
very last summer, but the last one I’d spend before heading off
to boarding school. Back then, our little village was nothing
more than a handful of farms and a general store. We had to
leave town for anything fancier. It was no big deal however. In
those days, what we couldn’t grow, we’d just make ourselves.
The whole ordeal started innocently enough. It was early
summer, maybe spring, any warm day with the sun high in the sky
is summer to a child like I was that day.
My friend Jonathan and I had gone deep into the forest.
Woods that hadn’t been seen by human eyes in years, decades,
perhaps ever. The purest of virgin forests. We’d play games back
then, often roping the Richards twins into joining us. We’d do
as most kids do; play cops and robbers, or was it cowboys and
indians? We’d build forts and occasionally go fishing or frog
catching. Children playing childish games.
One such passtime that we always reserved for when we were
deep in uncharted territory however, was hide and go seek. We
would come up with endless variants of this game, but a favorite
by far we called “freeze’. As long as the seeker was looking at
you, you were ‘frozen’ and could not run away. If the seeker
touched you, you were caught.
All was fun and games until that one day, when we were
further into the woods then we had ever been, that’s where we
We were playing explorers that day. We’d brought bottles
filled with water, which we called canteens, and bags with some
bread that we called rations.
‘He’ was sitting on a moss covered stone in a clearing. At
first, we didn’t notice him. His green skin glowed gloriously
like the sun shining through leaves at noon. He was as immobile
as he was naked, smiling peacefully, his face turned towards the
hot summer sun.
“Hey!” I remember calling. “What are you doing here? Where
are your clothes?”
Slowly and only after a moment, he opened his night-black
eyes to look at me. His smile broadened on his noseless face, as
if he were glad to see me.
“I’ve always been here.” he answered without moving his
As a child, I didn’t take notice of his physical
differences. His sexlessness, his skin color and his strange
anatomy. I was more curious to know if he’d join our games, and
First, we continued playing explorers and he was our Indian
guide. He brought us even deeper into the forest where we found
a small rivulet. He showed us a clearing where strawberries grew
and a tree so large and old that it dwarved all others in the
We had to give up fishing though. Our new friend didn’t
like that we killed for sport. Instead, he’d find us nuts or
other berries that we could eat, or show us other wonders to
keep us distracted.
Jonathan was convinced we’d found a wood nymph, while I
thought he was just some freak, like those from the circuses
that fascinated me so much. In the end, it didn’t matter. Every
day, after our chores and if it didn’t rain, we would gather
together at my parents farm and head out into the woods to meet
him. Every time we’d find him sitting on his rock, staring at
the sun, a look of serene pleasure writ upon his face.
Then, one day, we drove so deep into the woods, so far into
the forest, that even our guide was finally in unfamiliar
territory. That’s when we knew we had, at last, found a place to
“Whenever you’re being watched, you can’t move.” I
explained, along with the rest of our made-up rules. He nodded
and said ‘yes’ with that wordless voice of his that caressed the
mind so pleasantly.
However, the very first time we played with him as the
seeker, he cheated. You can do a lot to a child that he will
simply shrug off, but cheating isn’t one of those things.
We… Called him names. Unkind things I’m happy not
remembering and glad he couldn’t understand, but still, he knew
we were unhappy with him.
“Now you have to promise, spit in your hand and swear, when
you’re watched, you cannot move. Understand?”
He answered by doing as he was told and spitting in his
hand and shaking mine after I did the same. The innocent things
children do without knowing the reach of consequences.
We played that day, but our fun game had taken on an
intensity we’d never meant for it to have. Our new friend had a
fresh gleam in his black eyes. There was something predatory in
how he watched us play. He was suddenly intolerant of even the
It all came to a head when Jonathan kept running after
being spotted. We were already tired and more than a little
worried at the atmosphere. None of us had ever given a second
thought as to our companion’s strange abilities and powers.
Suddenly however, we were his prey and what made him different
also made him dangerous.
Obviously, Jonathan had had enough and wanted to walk away
from the game.
“Stop.” it growled, very softly as my friend ignored him
and kept walking. “Stop!”
When he shouted, we all grabbed our ears in pain. It wasn’t
the silky, soothing silence we had been accustomed to, but an
assault on our young minds.
This scared Jonathan and he started to run, further
angering our strange friend.
I didn’t see what happened next, how could I, but when we
got to Jonathan, the strange creature we had befriended was
holding him to the ground and had bitten his pinky clean off.
“He cheated.” he declared, his mouth full of fresh, warm
None of us moved. Jonathan was sobbing in the dirt, holding
his mangled hand.
“You understand Nathan?” the creature asked me while
getting off my wounded friend who scampered away. “He cheated.
We hate cheaters don’t we?”
I took a step backwards, then another, never taking my eyes
off the strange creature we’d met and befriended in those woods.
“Nathan?” it called out in my mind “At least tell me I can
move. Nathan? Nathan!”
“I’ll be back tomorrow. We’ll talk.” I said, never meaning
“Do you promise Nathan?” it asked, the voice in my head
sweet and harmless once again. “Do you?”
I never answered. By that time the next day, I was on a
train bound for Toronto. I wouldn’t be back in Saint-Ferdinand
for another twelve years, by then, things had changed.