Johnny Ruin is a literary novel that explores themes of heartbreak and mental health. The novel is set in the mind of the narrator, a surreal United States where each state is a new state of mind: lust; anger, jealousy.
Haunted by the idea that he is somehow broken, the narrator, a depressed 30-something writer, embarks on a trip through his own mind with his spirit guide, Jon Bon Jovi, for company. As they explore his memories, fantasies, and imagination, we learn he attempted suicide after a recent heartbreak.
From the redwoods of California to a crumbling New York City, the road trip travels the highways of the narrator’s memory, an ever shifting landscape where fact and fiction rewrite each other. When his ex-girlfriend turns up demanding she be allowed to leave his mind, he has to decide whether to fix himself, or engineer an escape for the one memory he’s clinging to.
Wait, who are you again?
I’m a writer and journalist, originally from Yorkshire and currently living in London. I have a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Leeds and I’ve spent the past three years working at BuzzFeed, writing about mental health, books, and pop culture.
Why did you write this book?
I had the idea for Johnny Ruin way back in 2005. I was living in LA. and had an idea for a man on a quest to fix himself by taking a road trip back east. At some point the road trip became a trip through his own mind. Then I added Jon Bon Jovi, and everything fell into place. I finally sat down to write it in August 2015, and here we are. Books take a long time!
If the book is any good, why not just publish it?
Unbound are a new kind of publisher, who believe readers should have a say in what books are published. By contracting the book in the first place, Unbound have shown they believe in it. The crowd funding campaign gives readers a chance to vote with their money for a book they believe in. So pledge away!
What do you need the money for?
The campaign covers the costs of producing the book: Editing, designing, printing, publicity, distribution, etc. The money isn’t pocketed by me, and since the novel is already written, there’s no chance it won’t be delivered!
What do I get in return?
1. A copy of the book, in either digital or print, depending on the pledge level. 2. Your name the back of said book, thanking you for your patronage. 3. A super cool reward, depending on your pledge level – check out the list of levels on the right of the page. 4. The warm, fluffy knowledge that you are helping support an emerging writing career!
Why Jon Bon Jovi?
Jon and his music were very formative for me. Bon Jovi were the first band I loved, and Jon was my childhood idol. I’ve seen the band play 8 times on three continents – it’s safe to say I’m a fan! When it came to writing the book, I realised I needed a spirit guide, a Virgil to the narrator’s Dante, someone who would help him find himself again. I immediately thought of Jon.
Of course, I’ve never met Jon, and the character in the book isn’t meant to represent him. He’s a figment of the narrator’s mind, drawn from an early 90s album cover. It’s a sympathetic, heroic portrayal, but it’s entirely fiction.
When will I get the book?
We’re aiming to deliver the book in Spring 2018. Good things come to those who wait!
Where do I sign up?
Read the pledge levels on the right, find the one you want, and hit the green pledge button! Thank you for your support!
California / Dreaming
Start with the weather. Cool, calm, twenty-two degrees. Not so much weather as an absence of it. Above, the ceiling of trees breaks to reveal a solitary cloud. Then a second, floating toward the first. If you can only see one cloud, you’re not looking at enough sky.
He calls down to me. What are you doing. I tell him I’m writing a book. A beam of light falls across his face. He rocks back on his heels, squints. About what, he says. I try not to stare, to mumble. Grief, I say.
We sit, surrounded by giant redwoods. Sun filters through a canopy of leaves. The Japanese have a word for that. I’m not Japanese. Neither is he. He draws a breath, asks who died. I did, I say. He shakes his head. Tough break, he says. He means it.
The first thing you learn about Jon Bon Jovi is that he’s very sincere.
I’m 10, riding my bike through the woods, all oak and pine and silver birch. A playground waiting to be climbed. I choose a tree with low branches, get all the way to the top. From there I can see the whole valley. I stay for hours, surveying my kingdom. When I finally get home, it’s dark out. Mum is angry, shouting. Where have you been. I blame the tree.
How did you get here. The Sequoia is native to California, and California is a long way from London. Jon sits atop a fallen trunk as high as a house. He might be meditating. This is the forest of the mind, he says. He doesn’t open his eyes. Oh, I say. That clears it right up.
The first time I kiss her I never want to stop.
My first Bon Jovi record was Cross Road. 1994. I wore out the cassette. Jon circa Cross Road had the shorter hair, the John Lennon sunglasses. Gone was the poodle perm, the floor-length leather coat. 1994 Jon Bon Jovi was coolest man I’d ever seen. This is that Jon Bon Jovi. The same Jon Bon Jovi who’s urinating off the top of the tree trunk, his stream of hot piss narrowly missing me. He shouts down.Look out below. It’s too late.
The second thing you learn about Jon Bon Jovi is that he isn’t shy.
I’ve been in this forest once before. The one with all the redwoods. A long time ago. But this isn’t just that forest. There’s oak, pine, silver birch. All the forests I’ve known scattered in and amongst. All my selves. There I am, 11 years old, building a treehouse. There I am, at 15, getting a hand job against a tree from a girl I met on holiday. I’m too worried about ants to come. There I am at 27, walking with my future ex-wife. Here I am, 32, sitting in a forest, surrounded by the flickering ghosts of my past selves. Ghosts are just echoes you can see. I write that down. I get any piss on you, Jon says, thrusting his hips so his dick spins like a helicopter.
The first time I kiss her I never want to stop. I know she’s going to break my heart.
Set the scene. It’s a crisp autumn afternoon in a Californian forest and I have no idea how I got here. Her name is on the breeze blowing through the leaves. The sun casts long shadows of the redwoods around me, trunks as wide as 30-feet ascending far into the sky. Dust and debris float through sunbeams, catching the light like airborne glitter, rising into the canopy above. It’s heaven on earth. Except it can’t be earth, and I don’t believe in heaven. I’m pretty sure I’m dead.
You’re not dead, Jon says. He sits next to me, chewing a blade of grass he plucked from the undergrowth. Hopefully not the undergrowth he just pissed on. Piss or no, he exists with the kind of effortless cool you can’t help but envy. He speaks without looking up. What do you remember.
The copy edit is the part of book production process when your manuscript is turned over to a specialist who goes through it with a fine toothed spelling and grammar comb. They also look at word use and repetition, check facts i.e. "are you implying this was a Jon Bon Jovi solo album? Because here's a link to an article that says it was the whole band" (I wasn't, and yes it was), and make suggestions…
Hello! If you've seen your email, you'll know that I have delivered the 'final' edited manuscript to Unbound.
This being publishing, the 'final' manuscript is not in fact final. What happens next is the book goes to see the copy editor, who does a line edit (a very close edit that looks at spelling, grammar, word repetition, consistency of style, that sort of thing).
That's not to say it…
Since my book funded I've had a fair few of you asking, another whisky, really? And, what's happening with your book? Sober so far today, I thought I'd elaborate some on the process.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that after a 9 day funding storm I finally got some sleep, but this is not the case. See, Unbound, underneath all the shiny tech and cool crowdfunding stuff, is much…
These people are helping to fund Johnny Ruin.