Author Interview

Interview with the author of The Saint I Ain’t: Stories from Sycamore Street, Bobby Johnston!

Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!

I live in Los Angeles, where I am a film composer, musician, and a writer. I was born and raised in Olean, NY, a small town in Western New York State.

Tell us about your book? How did it get started?

“The Saint I Ain’t” is a collection of fictional short stories, told in a hybrid style of poetry and personal narrative. The stories are based on experiences from my childhood. I started writing stories for the book twenty years ago, but my energies soon became consumed with my film composing career. I had recently returned to writing, with an interest in screenwriting. Then when the pandemic hit, I made finding a publisher for this book my Covid project. I connected with Fomite press, who offered to publish the collection. Their vision for the book aligned with mine, so I wrote five additional stories and rounded out the thematic structure.

How do you create your characters?

These stories are told in the voice of a first-person narrator, who serves as the main character. There is a best friend character in the book, “Billy Flynn,” who is a composite based on different friends from my youth. I wanted this character to add a cohesive thread to the stories, because there are so many one-off names that are introduced across the length of the book. But this character would also serve as a witness to the protagonist’s transgressions, as well as his triumphs.

I have a neighborhood dad character, “Mr. Hinkley” who is also a composite inspired by different fathers from the block I grew up on. Mr. Hinkley embodies a sense of nurturing and the ideal of a perfect dad in the 1970s.

There’s a bully character based on bullies I knew in my childhood, as well as a recognition of myself at times when I was a bully.

In the end, I hope to have universal characters that are recognizable to a reader as authentic. They are initially created based on the dramatic needs of a particular story, but they can also be altered to serve the overall arc of the book.

What inspires and what got your started in writing?

Initially, I was inspired to write after reading authors Denis Johnson, Charles Bukowski and David Sedaris in the mid 1990s. Most of the writing I had done up to that point was as a lyricist. I wanted to be Bob Dylan more than Dylan Thomas back then. I think you can still see that lyrical influence in the poetic structure of the stories in “The Saint I Ain’t”, as well as in the economy of language.


Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?).

I write in many different places. My music studio is a back-house fifteen steps from our back door, so I do a lot of writing there, as my recording gear is always ready to go for music as well. I am often juggling music and writing projects, so the studio serves as a hub for both. However, the only thing I need for writing is my Macbook Pro, so that stays close by. I can dive in and get lost in writing at any time and in most places. Once I have something flowing, I usually work obsessively for as long as I can hold out, to try and capture all I can. So, I may end up spending a couple of days straight in the lounge chair, or the couch at the studio, or the picnic table outside… When a location is sparking creativity, I get a little superstitious about the moment, and try not to break the routine of what I’m doing when the muse hits.

What do you like to read?

For many years, because of my film composing profession (and screenwriting aspirations), I have mostly been reading screenplays. When I do grab a book, it is often poetry, short-story collections, or something else that can be digested in parts, during a break or decompression time. I love the collections of Charles Bukowski letters that Black Sparrow Press put out in the 1990’s. As a poet, I find his work ethic, writing ethos and willingness to submit to debaucherous diversion inspiring. He was true to himself, and it came out in his writing.

What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?

Strive to make your work as personal as possible. There are only so many stories out there, so use the details and impressions that form your own experience and, most importantly, try to say things in your own way, your own voice. It’s always surprising how universally that can translate, when it comes from an authentic place. I find it’s the same with composing music.

Denise Alicea
the authorDenise Alicea
This blog was created by Denise in September 2008 to blog about writing, book reviews, and technology. Slowly, but surely this blog expanded to what it has become now, a central for book reviews of all kinds interviews, contests, and of course promotional venue for authors, etc

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