Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of Beyond Where the Buses Run: Stories! As a contributing writer, how would you describe the overall premise of this story collection, and how did you come to be involved in the project?
Joe Coyle: In "Just Outside Lisbon," we meet a man as he drives from Pittsburgh to an appointment near Lisbon, Ohio. We come to learn thru flashbacks that this man had a much different Life Plan when he was a young man living in New York City with a big expense account, big clients, and big ideas. Now, as a middle-aged man, he is going to meet a shady character in the middle of nowhere in Eastern Ohio to attempt to swindle the unsophisticated landowner out of his property. As he drives, we learn a bit about how he developed his craft on his virgin mission in the Pennsylvania Wilds where he meets a young lady who works him better than he could possibly work anyone. It is a tale of modern-day hucksters as the narrator eventually arrives at his appointment and we wonder who is working who and who is going to come out on top, if at all.
BD: What can you tell us about your creative process in bringing your own story, “Just Outside Lisbon,” to life, and what (or who) were some of your creative influences?
JC: I’d say my creative influences have been John O’Hara, Graham Greene, and John D. McDonald. Reading their works inspired me to read even more, which helped me discover more writers with varied backgrounds and experiences. Reading motivated me to experience more things and visit different places that I doubt I would have ever known about without reading. I recently saw Joyce Carol Oates on Master Class and I thought she was fantastic. She talks about, among other things flirting with various formats and styles, which may or may not work at the moment but could work in other stories with different characters. Creative limits really are self-imposed as much as we would like to blame others for limiting us.
With regards to "Just Outside Lisbon," I have always been intrigued by people you can meet on the road. In the early '80s I worked for a start-up magazine in Houston, TX. I was hired as an intern who would work in various departments, filling in as needed for the underfunded publication. After a few issues, the owner decided we weren’t being featured properly on newsstands so he sent me on the road to visit newsstands in Austin, San Antonio, Waco, Ft. Worth, and Dallas. It was my job to convince the newsstand operators that we should be on the same shelf as Vogue, Town & Country, and Cosmopolitan. I soon realized the inner workings of magazine distribution which fell upon deaf ears with the owner/publisher but for me I learned so much more about myself, Texas, the road, and the world.
One of the highlights was sitting at the bar at the Driskill Hotel in Austin drinking and bs-ing with oilmen, musicians, political operatives, writers, and just people. Hearing their stories, I wondered then and even wonder now how they ended up where they were. In "Just Outside Lisbon," the narrator drives from Pittsburgh to meet someone in Lisbon, Ohio, and wonders the same about himself, while he relives some moments from his past. We don’t get a clear answer but we learn much about him and the folks he has met along the way.
BD: What makes Oregon Greystone Press the perfect home for this anthology?
JC: Oregon Greystone is perfect for not only "Just Outside Lisbon," but all the stories and writers featured in Beyond Where the Buses Run: Stories. Theresa Griffin Kennedy is nurturing, understanding, open minded, and a real pro, who by the way is a prolific writer with a capital P. Robert Crane, a good friend and mentor of mine, met her on line and pitched her the idea of having a story he wrote and some stories that his deceased wife had written years ago. Theresa was looking for writers outside of the Northwest and outside of the mainstream. New voices, if you will. Bob mentioned me to her along with Chris Fryer and Meagan Bejar and soon enough we had a collection that is as varied as our experiences, lives and locations.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
JC: The problem with any creative person is that you see ideas everywhere. As I have gotten older, I have learned to stop and write down titles for future projects, or locations, or names of characters, or situations. The hope is that I will get back to these little teasers and wrap a story around them. Time is the challenge. With that as my qualifier I just competed two short stories that I have submitted to a friend/mentor for notes. They are fully baked and ready to go barring a massive critique from said friend. I also re-wrote a screenplay I wrote years ago after seeing the characters thru a new lens. It is a neo-noir thriller set in the early 2000s. I also met with the author of a book about his experience coaching his alma mater to a state football championship after being called out of retirement to replace the head coach who quit one week prior to their first game. Other than that season, the team was a perennial loser. I’d describe it as a Remember the Titans/Blind Side/All the Right Moves kind of story. It is Inspirational/touching/motivational and very Western Pennsylvania.
Lastly, I guess is I help my son with his story ideas. He and his friends have been shooting films with their iPhones since they were 8 or 9 years old. Up until recently, they have been making their version of classics like Red Dawn, Bronx Tail, and The Godfather. Now that he is 16, he has started writing original stuff and his ideas are pretty strong. I help him organize his thoughts but just like sports, at his age he is far better than I was and he will probably be able to do both well past high school.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Beyond Where the Buses Run: Stories and your other work?
JC: Beyond Where the Buses Run: Stories will be available at Amazon, B&N, and your local bookstore online. We are hoping it will be released within the next week.