Remember Me LIke This (May 2014) is Bret Anthony Johnston’s debut about a boy in south Texas who disappears only to be found unharmed some time later, but his happy reunion exposes the fractures and wounds of his family. Skateboarding plays a significant role in the novel as it does in his life, and Johnston showed up at the event with a skateboard painted with the book’s cover on it, special edition board produced by a friend of his. He raffled the board to the audience.
As Johnston prepares to read, he explains that for him, growing up in south Texas, Barnes and Noble offered his only real exposure to bookstores. There were no independent bookstores near him, and the idea of writing as a profession seemed impossible until he found the Discover Great New Writers shelf and began reading contemporary authors. The email from his publisher informing him he had been chosen for the program was one of those rare pieces of good news unequalled in his life.
Writing novels is a long process, he says, but not necessarily more difficult than writing short stories. “I don’t buy into the idea that writing a novel is harder than stories.” The difficult thing with novels is finding something to be interested in over the long period of writing.
“The fewer words, the harder it gets,” he says.
He says that as he read that night, he was editing words as he went. There is a sense that writing, as a process, is never finished. He says writers can learn when a piece is publishable, but thats a different skill than knowing when something is finished. The goal to achieve is the creation of something solid.
Johnston jokes that the only writer he’ll read before he sets to writing is Virginia Woolf because her work is so awful that it provides an ego boost. Then he reiterates the point: he strongly dislikes Woolf.
Johnston employs a great deal of self-doubt when he writes, and he sees this as essential to writing. “I think anytime the writer comes from a place of confidence, the writing has suffered.”
He adds that he wants to write from a place of curiosity, fear, and vulnerability. “Confidence repels the reader,” he adds.
Johnston has spent the last twenty-five years of his life skateboarding. Its what he prefers. He adds that he would give up writing if he knew how to make any money from skateboarding.