I recently had the pleasure of stumbling onto two hilarious books by Nick Tory, Johnny 12 Steps and Johnny Vegas. It was a little like finding ten bucks in a pair of jeans you hadn’t worn for a while: totally unexpected and awesome. I read the first and then quickly bought and read the second – at only 80ish pages each you can tear right through them, which is good, because if they were 600 pages I would have had to sit there and finish them anyway and by the time I looked up my husband and dog would have probably left me.
Here’s a clip from the beginning of Johnny 12 Steps:
Little gems like the fact Johnny keeps referring to a “hobo” and then it turns out the “hobo” is a doctor who works next store are the laugh out loud surprises that happen about every six sentences throughout the books. Love it.
So inspired was I, that I wanted to do a quick interview with Nick himself, because at 99 cents I don’t think there is anyone out there who shouldn’t download these little boxes of fun right now!
Me: How did the idea of the Johnny Tee character come to you?
Johnny definitely came before the story. I need my story to keep things moving, but I always tell people that it’s 1000 jokes, one after another, disguised as a story. But certainly there are elements I won’t write it without, like redemption because ‘jerk with a heart of gold’ is probably the best thing in literature.
Did another author’s style influence you in creating Johnny?
First and foremost I was heavily influenced by having spent 20 plus years watching and rewatching The Simpsons, as well as the old HBO program Mr. Show. One of the old writers on The Simpsons, John Swartzwelder, wrote a bunch of books that I love. There is also a book called What I’d Say To The Martians: And Other Veiled Threats by Jack Handey that I have read 30 times because to this day I still laugh so hard that I cry. Humor that is absurd warms my dark soul. Richard Stark’s, Parker is also a series that influenced me. I love to listen to dirty stand up comics and I sound like a teamster with my friends, but I love and really appreciate humor that doesn’t need it, and that’s what my favorite humor authors have and what I try to emulate.
I definitely had some Jack Handy flashbacks as I was laughing my way through your book. And I appreciated the books weren’t one f’bomb after the next even though the characters are often “shady underworld” types. I also sound like a teamster at home but I agree cursing in print often a sign of lazy humor.
If I asked your family if you were a “normal” person, how long would they pause before lying?
There would be probably about a 45 second pause where they were be looking around, like they were thinking. It would get awkward near the end of that so you’d start to ask them again, thinking they didn’t hear you. They would quickly shush you and then look like they were thinking again. Eventually you’d just give up and move on, which is what they were waiting for all along.
Ha! Maybe I should be asking you if they are normal.
*silence* (looks around…)
Um… er… ok… how many books do you see in Johnny’s future?
I plan to write Johnny books until I’m sick of it. Sometimes I pitch an idea to my friend about what Johnny can get into next and he’s a good barometer for me. Right now it’s basically a slow climb that will one day end in a place that is completely unnecessary. When it seems to become a bit much, I’ll put Johnny on the moon or start time traveling. One day he’ll clone himself in Johnny Johnny Johnny. Someone will sit me down and tell me that it’s time to move on and I’ll put them into my next book as a character who gets killed.
Oh I love that meta stuff. Putting characters from one series into bit parts of another… Makes you, as a reader, feel clever when you notice it, and anything that can make me feel clever is amazing.
Any other books sans Johnny in the works (mentally or physically)?
I was told by cover artist and brother that if I ever wanted to make any money I would have to write erotica. That would be the worst book ever, so I’ll probably write it. I’ve written some short things that aren’t humor, and for whatever reason I hate it all. I have a lot of respect for people who actually have to write legitimate literary works.
Any other favorite authors?
Besides the aforementioned humor writers, I grew up loving Stephen King and H.G. Wells. I’m drawn to strange things I guess. Now I try to read a bit of everything. The two best books I’ve read in the past few years are The Art of Fielding and A Visit From the Goon Squad, which are both just amazing works of art. But I can still go back and read The Long Walk or The Forever War because I want to get the complete range of emotions that are available from books. I never understood reading just sci-fi or just romance or whatever because there is just too much out there. The only rule I follow is not to read the same genre for two consecutive books. I’ve read a lot of indie books recently. I also tend to gravitate towards fiction, which I probably says something about me that requires therapy.
Are the Johnny books self published?
Yes. I never sent them anywhere because I just started writing them for fun. Humor is so subjective and I suppose I never wanted to be told it wasn’t funny, because I write what I think is funny. So I’d have been finding out that I was an idiot, just as I’d always presumed. I guess I still just assume that one day someone is going to approach me for the movie rights though. They’ll make me an offer and I’ll counter with a bigger number and they’ll tell me to slag off and I’ll have blown my big chance because of unnecessary greed. Still, I look forward to it.
What marketing do you do and what has worked best?
Basically just social media marketing at this point. I didn’t even really tell anybody about the first book until I had written the second one, which I thought worked out for me. I’m mulling over taking a sign to a football game and hoping they show it on television, or maybe a fake scavenger hunt thing where I post a sign that says “free money” over a table that has maps on it. The maps will lead people somewhere far away and they’ll have to dig and they’ll find a copy of my book. They will be really upset but maybe they’ll read it because they went to a lot of trouble.
Do you have a day job and if so, doesn’t that suck?
Yes I work in education. I am shaping minds. Why am I entrusted with that? That seems like a mistake. I try not to let those dark thoughts overtake me. Although, Johnny is a bit of a hobo and writing for that feels a little too natural, which is worrisome.
You can also follow Nick at his site: http://www.johnnybooks.com/
And Twitter: @Nick_Tory
And go grab his books!
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