Please tell us a little bit about your most recent work.
Recently, I published an essay collection entitled TALES FROM THE DORK SIDE through Fifth Avenue Press in Ann Arbor, MI. It is a collection of thematically-linked essays
What draws you to writing novels?
So far, I have published two memoirs: TALES FROM THE DORK SIDE and then LOVE & VODKA: MY SURREAL ADVENTURES IN UKRAINE (through Fish Out of Water Books www.fowbooks.com).
My first fictiomal novel comes out in April 2018. It is entirely different from anything else I have published. For one thing, it's fiction. For another thing, it's very dark, edgy, and gritty and set in the city I grew up just out side of -- Detroit. It's entitled AWAITING IDENTIFICATION and the concept is based on an article I read in the Detroit Free Press several years ago about how every year in Detroit, hundreds of bodies end up in the morgue unidentified. My novel then shows who these unnamed victims were, rather than nameless bodies.
Are you currently working on any side projects such as short stories, essays, etc.?
Short stories and essays have been my primary type of writing. Most of my stories essays have been published in literary magazines and journals. Most of my essays are in my newly-released TALES FROM THE DORK SIDE. However, several did not make the cut and I have several other ones that are currently orphans hoping to one day find a home.
I have written over a dozen or so short stories and am hoping to one day publish them in a collection, though it is hard to publish short story collections. I am so lucky I found a home for my essays with Fifth Avenue Press.
Which topics interest you the most and why?
Life in general! So many of my stories were drawn from real-life experiences as in the case of my memoirs. But even my fiction has a lot of non-fiction elements from my own life. Most are domestic dramas dealing with marriage and relationships (or, the lack thereof). My upcoming novel set in Detroit uses a real-life setting (the city itself) as almost a character in itself!
Do you have any unique rituals?
I find I can usually only write at cafes and bars. When I try to write at home, I usually get distracted by TV, or fall asleep at the keyboard (though, I sometimes do this in public, too!). I realize a writer writing in a cafe or bar is really not that unique, so at least I know I am in good company!
I also usually try to use part of my planning period as a teacher to get some writing done. That way, even if I never get another chance later that day, I could at least go to bed knowing that I did SOME writing.
One novelist more people should know: Who is it?
Camille Pagan. It isn't that she's exactly unknown (she recently optioned one of her novels to Jessica Chastain's production company), but her work is really good and worthy of more readers! She's also from my hometown of Dearborn, Michigan! We went to the same high school and are close in age, but we didn't know each other then. Now, we both live in Ann Arbor!
Do you find it difficult to get your work out there?
Getting my work out there is the easy part. It's getting someone to 1.) actually read what you wrote 2.) like it enough to publish. I have been so fortunate to have found too local publishers in my region to publish my books so far -- Fifth Avenue Press. And especially, Fish out of Water Books, who just recently got national distribution, which is huge!
I also published in over 30 literary magazines and journals, which is a nice pick-me-up when I struggle to finish and/or publish my longer works.
Tell us about your day job or your daily activities.
I am a high school film and English teacher in Ann Arbor, MI. I am so fortunate to be able to teach my life passions -- writing and film! This year, I am teaching all film, which includes both film study and film production. It is an absolutely blast being able to share these great classics with my students.
I am also a father of two small children (6 and 2), so that keeps me busy after work and until their bedtime. That's when I head out to write!
When it comes to your work, where do you find your inspiration?
I find a lot of inspiration in film (especially indie/art film) and lately, television. So many great series out there! It's stressful to keep up! The other day, I literally wrote down shows in my notebook I have either started, or want to start. My original background as a writer was as a screenwriter, so film is my primary passion. Two of my books were first optioned screenplays that I later turned into books. Now, I'm hoping to come back full circle and return them to film.
Reading authors similar to what I'm currently writing is always helpful, too and attending readings. Ann Arbor is a great town with so many great indie bookshops and literary events!
The support of family and loved ones is a huge boost to my ego, amidst constant rejection and reading events where nobody shows up.
Last, but not least, I get constant inspiration from the person who sparked my writing dream -- my 10th grade English teacher, Anne Gautreau. She not only saw the potential in me to become a writer, but has pushed me along every step of the way. She has certainly impacted my teaching, as well! I hope I can become even 1/10 of the type of teacher she was for me!
What would you like to tell your readers.
I have learned that even though there is so little money to be made as a writer, I am so fortunate to have a "day job" I love and am passionate about.
And to me, payment as a writer isn't so much about how much money you can make, but how many people take the time to read what you wrote and to share in the excitement of being a published author. I have been so fortunate. As a former bullied kid who strived for positive attention, I feel like I am finally getting what I waited so long for!
I don't take it for granted and I hope that I can use my own passion to inspire my students to follow their own dreams and to always find a way to latch on to them and never let go, even if you have to do other things for actual pay. It worked for me, so hopefully I can be a living example of that.
R.J. Fox is the award-winning writer of several short stories, plays, poems, a memoir, and 15 feature length screenplays. Two of his screenplays have been optioned to Hollywood. His first book – a memoir entitled Love & Vodka: My Surreal Adventures in Ukraine was previously published by Fish Out of Water Books. His most recent publication was a collection of essays entitled Tales From the Dork Side. His forthcoming novel Awaiting Identification arrives in spring 2018.
His work has been published in over 30 literary magazznes and journals.
He is also the writer/director/editor of several award-winning short films. His recent stage directing debut led to an Audience Choice Award at the Canton One-Acts Festival.
Fox graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English and a minor in Communications and received a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI.
In addition to moonlighting as a writer, independent filmmaker and saxophonist, Fox teaches film and literature in the Ann Arbor Public Schools, where he uses his own dream to inspire his students to follow their own. He has also worked in public relations at Ford Motor Company and as a newspaper reporter. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI.
Tales From the Dork Side
Love & Vodka
Awaiting Identification (April 2018)