It has been a feast of Storytellers posts this weekend and now we finish with Bob Pastorella talking about his weird crime novella from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing ‘Mojo Rising’.
‘Mojo Rising’ is a book I thoroughly enjoyed reading earlier this year. I was sold as soon as I saw the excellent cover art from Dyer Wilk and heard about Bob’s love of The Doors and how they influenced the book. It follows the path taken by Juney; a dealer who is searching for his missing brother whilst trying to find out more about a new product called Mojo; a drug that is sweeping through south east Texas. If you like The Doors and are a fan of the show True Detective then there is definitely something here you will enjoy. Being a novella, the pacing is fast and before you know it you are done, left shaking in a psychedelic haze.
Bob is also co-host, contributor and reviewer over at This Is Horror. Alongside Michael David Wilson, This Is Horror also has a podcast that has featured some truly great interviews, writing tips and humor. If you haven’t listened to it yet then I highly recommend you do so. Follow the link above and check it out. As always thanks to Bob for taking part. I hope you check out this cool book and enjoy Bob’s insights…
Roadhouse Blues: Losing Yourself to the Doors While Tripping on True Detective
It would be really easy for me to say my weird crime novella Mojo Rising came about while listening to the Doors stoned out of my mind. That’s the romantic ideal, right? Trippy story, lots of drugs, groovy tunes while floating on the highway of love. Nothing could be further from the truth. Well, except for the Doors part. My drug-fueled road trip was set in motion trying to write a horror story about witches.
Trust me, I’m just as confused as you are.
Right after having my mind blown away by season one of HBO’s True Detective, I was inspired to write something weird. I wanted it to be witchy, steeped in lore and mythology, and centered around my home in Southeast Texas. I had previously written a short story called ‘Pork Chop’, and there was this one minor character in that story who really stuck with me. Based off a real person, I chose this character because if there was anyone I’d know who might even dabble in witchcraft, it might have been this guy. This character was going to be my villain, and one whose reputation precedes him in the dastardly department, except for when he finally makes it to the stage, he’s even more screwed up that you ever could have imagined.
Around this time, I got on a Doors kick. One of my favorite bands ever, I remembered scenes in the Oliver Stone film about Jim Morrison running around with alleged witches, fooling with witchcraft. I love the film, but didn’t revisit it, in fear that my memory might be playing tricks with me, letting me misremember things. I spent a lot of time thinking about this character, listening to the Doors, and thinking about True Detective. Somewhere along the line, Juney, my main character, came into play. Juney was someone who knew my villain, and didn’t think too highly of him, and felt my villain was incapable of causing all of this misery to his rather successful meth business. Juney starts off looking for his missing brother. He’s in a tough spot and wants to lash out, but is told by the powers that be to stand down. Worst yet, he’s asked to reach out to the people who are causing him so many problems as friends, possible business partners even. There’s this strange new form of meth out there, and while looking for his brother, Juney samples some of this drug, and things get really, really out of hand.
Now, I know those of you that have read the book are wondering what happened to the witchcraft concept. I’m wondering the same damn thing, because I swear that was my intention. Of course, writing doesn’t always happen the way it’s supposed to. A lot of times, the story, the characters, the idea, changes. Shifts might be a better term here. Either way, it turns out different than what you first expected. A lot of times, we can catch this and steer the narrative back on track.
This time, I decided to let it go off the rails.
The next romantic ideal here would be to explain how I managed to write the novella in such a way that it’s difficult to determine what is real and what is hallucination. It would be really neat to post pics of pages from my notebooks, detailing the preliminary notes and diagrams used to construct the scenes, blending reality and fantasy, tossing in dialogue, and all of it so painstakingly tedious, but there’s none of those pics, because there’s not even a notebook. Well, there is a notebook, but it’s boring, and not at all what you would think it is. Truth of the matter is that as much as I plot my longer stories out, scene by scene, I couldn’t plot Mojo Rising that deep. The songs guided me more than anything else. Figuring out the chapter titles was just as important as getting my characters to follow my plot. Those chapter titles, which are song titles by the Doors, are themes for the chapters, setting the pace for both the events of the story and Juney’s mindset while dealing with his problems. I wanted to keep it loose, because that’s exactly how life really is. We start off with one problem, and discover another problem that needs more of our attention, and a lot of times we find both problems are intimately connected in ways that are personal and extremely devastating. By keeping it loose, I somehow managed to make reality unstable while grounding Juney’s hallucinations in such a way that they actually could have happened in real life, up to a point. Maybe that’s the secret to writing ambiguous stories, keeping it loose. I don’t know, but I seem to have a knack for it. I hope I pull it off again one day, while keeping it fresh and dare I say, original.
I set out writing a witchcraft story and finished with a Weird Crime novella. I fear that label might scare some readers. It shouldn’t, because it’s not a new genre, it’s actually quite old, perhaps finally coming full circle back to writers and readers. The story is about a drug-runner, which is the crime part, but the story also deals with the Weird, the unexplained, and how this drug-runner deals with the Weird. There’s strange locations, combustible humans, raging wasps, tentacles bursting through guts, while the Lizard King preaches peace and love directly into your brain. The Doors are there, in spirit, guiding your journey, and while the vein is thin in some places, I think you’ll find enough of that spirit to take you all the way through to the other side.
Pick up a copy of ‘Mojo Rising’ from here.
Visit Bob Pastorella here.
Visit This Is Horror