Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lovely meeting Ben Obler

Janis picked up some IRN-BRU from the Scottish store for us all to try. It tastes like bubble gum!

A toast - to books!

Ben signed autographs for us all.

It was lovely chatting with Ben Obler, the author of Javascotia, during our February 2012 meeting. He talked about his experiences in Scotland. He studied there both as an undergraduate and graduate student, living there for a total of two years. He earned his masters in letters from the University of Glasgow. As someone who picks up dialect easily, he also incorporated it in Javascotia to be part of a long Scottish writing tradition. Many of the characters in his book are based off people he has known. Margaret is part his first wife, part his high school girlfriend. Klang is based off someone he knew while in Scotland, as are Nicole and her roommate Sophie.

Does he love coffee?
Yes. And, much like Melvin when he first visited Scotland, he didn't find any chain coffee shops or strong, American-style coffee. That changed by the end of his second stint there when Starbucks have arrived.

Who is his audience?
Ben wrote to both an American and a Scottish audience.

Who inspires him?
Reading John Updike as an impressionable teenager greatly influenced his writing style and what he tries to accomplish. He doesn't find anything in common with Ernest Hemmingway. Rather, when writing Javascotia, he worked for some time to find a character that inspired him, and finally found one when he stopped trying to write a Hero Male into his novel and instead centered the story around a Nerd. In fact, he choose Melvin's name because of Happy Days. Whenever Fonzie didn't like what someone had done, he said, "Way to go, Melvin."

What would he do differently?
Ben said he would make the book shorter, and also take out the word definitions throughout the text, at least those farther within the book. He's currently writing his second novel and aiming for 80,000 words. His next book will take a look at pornography addiction.

Did he know what was going to happen to Margaret when he started writing Javascotia?
No, that evolved as he wrote the story. His process with Javascotia was merely to sit down and write, without working off an outline. This time around, he's doing a little of both.

The Name of the World, by Dennis Johnson
Goodnight Mr. and Mrs. America and All the Ships at Sea, by Richard Borsch

J & S Bean Factory, St. Paul

1 comment: