Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Shoplandia: An Interview with Author Jim Breslin

Jim Breslin is a writer, storyteller and a former television producer who spent seventeen years with QVC, the world's largest home shopping network.  His first collection of short stories, Elephant, includes a short story that was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.  Next, he published the anthology Chester County Fiction that presented short fiction from thirteen Southeast Pennsylvania authors (including the author of this blog). 

Jim Breslin’s latest book is his first novel, Shoplandia.  It was inspired by his years as a producer at a home shopping network.

1)  Jim, I see that you’ve been accepting invitations from book clubs to talk about Shoplandia.  I’m sure that I speak for many authors when I say that the idea of talking to a book club in someone’s home is daunting (or even terrifying).  How has your book club visits gone, and do you find them worthwhile?

Actually I have found book clubs to be really fun, particularly since the wine is usually flowing! Seriously though, I love hearing from book club readers what they enjoyed about the books and what they didn't like. Sometimes those in the book club will start debating a character or what they took away from a scene and I just sit back and soak it all in. I often hear the same themes and it's helpful to hear that feedback. Everyone has been very cordial and asked insightful questions. Of course, they want to know if any of the scenes in Shoplandia really happened at QVC!

2)  You recently attended the HippoCamp Creative Non-Fiction Writer’s Conference in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  How important is it for writers to go to conventions?  What do you get out of it?

HippoCamp is a great conference geared towards writing creative nonfiction. While most of my writing is fiction, the stories I tell at Story Slams are creative nonfiction so it was fun to teach our storytelling workshop at HippoCamp. Writing is such as a solitary craft that it's important for writers to seek out community with writers conferences, retreats, writers groups, or critique groups. The classes and workshops are always insightful, but some of the most memorable moments are meeting amazing people who are working on really cool stories. I had lunch and dinner with some people who have amazing personal stories they are working on and I can't wait to see their stories in print.

3)  I’ve noticed on your website that two of the stories from Elephant are available separately for download.  That’s an interesting marketing technique.  Has it been successful?

I just put those two stories up and tested giving them away for free for a certain period of time. Of course, they were downloaded thousands of times for free. I have found that offering stuff for free will get an author downloads but it doesn't translate to sales. It would work better if it was the first chapter of a novel with a suspenseful ending but these were just two short stories.

4)  You’ve also collected stories from your Story Slams.  What’s a Story Slam and how did you come to be involved with them?

I was a fan of The Moth podcast so I tweeted out one day, in the summer of 2009, I love The Moth. Is there anything like that around West Chester? People tweeted back, joking no but that I should start something. So I started West Chester Story Slam in my living room. We had so much fun I moved it to a pub in West Chester and we're now in our seventh year. It's been really gratifying to hear people tell incredible stories. People can check out wcstoryslam.com to learn more, watch videos of stories, listen to the podcast, or buy tickets for an upcoming event. We sell out of tickets every month. Beer and stories go together.

5)  Finally, what are you working on now?  Short stories or a new novel?

Both! I have a wild pre-apocalyptic novel I'm working on. Imagine if Quentin Tarantino directed a Hardy Boys movie. It's different than anything else I've writtern and I may publish it under a pen name. I also have some short stories and flash fiction I've been diligently working on. I need to get a few stories over the finish line so I can send them out to journals. It's been over a year since I've published any short fiction.

Thank you.  You can follow Jim Breslin on his website, on Twitter, and on Facebook.
You can purchase his novel, Shoplandia, and the collections Elephant and Chester County Fiction at Amazon.