Beau Johnson is here to talk about his new book, The Big Machine Eats, his new short story collection featuring his character Bishop Rider. Beau’s style will pull you in. His writing is conversational, funny, and brutal.
Beau, what is The Big Machine Eats all about?
First off: Jason, thanks for having me! I’m of two minds to what The Big Machine Eats is about. On one hand, it’s about life and how it will eat you up if you let it. On the flipside, it boils down to one man, Bishop Rider, and the depravities he sets his sites on correcting. You know, Disney stuff. This is not to say this book is exclusive to Bishop Rider and friends. It is set up the same way as A BETTER KIND OF HATE, with favorites of old and adventures that are new.
What motivates Bishop to correct these depravities? Is it some depravity in himself he’s scared of?
A combination of factors contribute to Rider’s motivations. Personal loss (the murder of his mother, the rape and murder of his sister) being the inciting incident. Second would be his time in the police, and how, when he needed what he’d sworn to uphold most, he realized just how broken the system he worked for truly was.
How does he deal with the darkness?
Dismemberment, mostly. The odd hanging here and there, sure, but yeah, taking people apart, this is the thing that lets him sleep at night.
How did Bishop slip inside your head and force you to write about him?
I wish I had a clear answer for that, Jason. Looking back, I can’t really recall when Rider slipped into my life. What I can tell you is this: wasn’t until three or four stories in that I realized I had something with legs. Further still, it took me years to understand I’d already written about the men responsible for April and Maggie Rider’s deaths but had yet to connect the two. Is this a by-product of non-linear writing? I don’t know. Maybe. Either way, it happened, and once I realized my stories were connected in a way I failed to notice, this is when the damn burst. Each story involving Bishop then propelling the next one on. Different than most writers, sure, but seeing where I am now, I would not change it.
Can you sit down and Bishop Rider just flows out your fingertips like he’s possessed you, or do you procrastinate and make shapes out of the shadows before you get going?
Little from column A. Little from column B. Sometimes the story is fully formed. Sometimes it pulls me along. I can’t even say I have a favorite of the two. I do enjoy that I get to put his life to paper, though. Truly a blast whenever he pops up in my head.
Did you write The Big Machine Eats to the blast of music, or in silence?
Neither, actually, which as the book itself, is something of a rare occurrence. Long story short, I broke my collarbone last summer. It resulted in me re-watching the entirety of Friends and Lost from a lazy boy, gaining forty pounds, and writing the last half of The Big Machine Eats on my phone. As I’ve said before, I’m quite fortunate being born right handed…
Did Friends seep into the book?
Ha! No, but I ended up changing my mind in regards to a central idea that ran through the show, reversing my original belief and coming to agree with Ross on something I never thought I would—he and Rachel were, in fact, ON a break.
I really can’t remember. What’s it like writing on a phone?
With one arm? With mostly one thumb doing all the heavy lifting? It was not my favorite thing, that’s for sure. Don’t even get started on backspacing. I was crazy with the backspacing. Have I mentioned backspacing?
I counted three times. I’m not sure your mental health survived.
I’m guessing the editing process was interesting?
Nothing new there, ha, but yup, the editing process was interesting for sure. The impatience that accompanied it being the bigger bad in the end.
Sarah M. Chen said you had a ferociously twisted mind. Is it safe to approach you on a rain-lashed night to ask directions to the nearest pub?
Sarah M. Chen. She’s so nice. I have a standing dinner date with her the next time we connect at Bouchercon. As for my mind being ferociously twisted, I can safely say it is all for show and yes, please hit me up for directions on a rain slashed night. I mean, a man has to get his story ideas from somewhere, right?
The Big Machine Eats is out on a dinner date. Which book is it slurping the same strand of spaghetti with?
Oh man, great question. So many great books and authors to choose from. I have go with my man Uncle Stevie for the win, however. The Dark Tower, his Magnum Opus, in particular.
Of course. There’s a stranger to fiction at a book stand, ready to delve right in. Your book sits there among a dozen others. They like your cover, but that one to the left is also giving them come-to-me eyes. So is the one to the right. They can only take one.
Luckily, you’re passing by and feeling sociable to people you’ve never met.
What do you tell them?
I’ve been hearing good things about that one in the middle. Can’t put my finger on it, but the author, he looks very familiar as well…
Attractively challenged, but yeah, familiar.
Who is publishing the beast and when is it out?
Ha! Beast. Love it. My publisher is Down and Out Books. Commander and Chief being Eric Campbell. A man who quite literally changed my life by taking a chance on me. There are others, though, especially the ones who took the time to give The Big Machine Eats the once over even before any editor did any heaving lifting. There is the afformentioned Sarah M. Chen, Paul Heatley, Kevin Berg, Marietta Miles, Gary Duncan, Joe Clifford, and last but not least, Tom Pitts. This is on top of other chefs in the kitchen, editors being first and foremost. A writer can drop and beat or two, sometimes more, but it is truly awesome when an editor can help you make things sing. As for when I give birth: It enters the world on the 26th of November, baby! Mark your calendar! Bishop Rider Lives!
You can buy The Big Machine Eats on preorder HERE.
“A brilliant read that explores society and all its cracks. Jason Beech expertly balances the nostalgia of childhood adventures with the brutality of life in a very grown-up and dark town. City of Forts deserves to sit equal with the greats as a piece of entertainment and a study of modern life’s struggle”
– Aidan Thorn, author of When the Music’s Over from Fahrenheit 13 Press.
“This book has some serious grip. It sinks its teeth into the reader fast and hangs on. Solid throughout, visceral. Thoroughly enjoyed it.”
– D.S. Atkinson
“A great collection of shorts from an author with a stellar writing style! The first and last tales are the most entertaining, serving as perfect book ends to house the others in-between. There is a lot of depth to each story, which is difficult to accomplish considering their brevity. I will be investing more of my time on Mr. Beech.”
– Shervin Jamali, author of Remember.