James Wayne Johnson is a writer, stand-up comedian, and ardent music fan. His ongoing comic, Bloom Squad, has appeared serially in Oneshi Press Anthologies 9-12. Its fourth installment will debut in the Destinations Anthology, funding now on Kickstarter! We talked to James about his exploits in comics, comedy, horror films, fiction, and more!
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It’s been over a year since our last interview, James! What have you been up to, creatively, since October of 2021?
Mostly, I’ve been working on my novel, Left. Editing has been quite a process, reconfiguring all of my drafts and notes into a cohesive voice, first in my head and then on the page. My motto for the project is “Better on Paper.” I need to find and create the story’s final form and get it down on paper. The process may take some time but I’m determined not to give up on it!
I’m also a stand up comedian and I’ve been performing at 4-5 shows and open mics a month. It’s always fun when I come up with some new material.
This spring, I had a role in an independent short horror film, Spray. Filming took place over a weekend and it was so much fun. I’ve always wanted to be in a practical effects horror movie and so this was a dream come true. The film premiered at Camp Horror at the Roxy here in Missoula and seeing myself on the big screen was unbelievable.
With the world “opening up” again after Covid, have you found it more or less difficult to find time for writing?
I’m finding more time to write. I’ve been building some good momentum and I’m getting excited to see Bloom Squad in its final form. Once I finish, I can get on to the next one. I have drafts of three more novels that I want to complete, so I think I need to find even more time!
We’re up to Part 4 of Bloom Squad in the Destinations Anthology, and things are heating up for your characters! Can we get a quick summary of the story so far, for those who haven’t read it yet?
For sure! Bloom Squad takes place in a world similar to our own, except that for reasons which remain unclear, a few select people have developed telepathy.
As you might imagine, a good number of these people are using their new ability for their own personal, selfish gain, so it’s in their best interest to keep it a secret. These new telepaths have quickly risen to power in politics, sports, and other enterprises, some criminal.
Ed is a telepathic MMA fighter who is on the run from Stolas, Raine, and Makay, who are all telepathic and work for the telepathic crime boss, Sparrow.
Ed crosses paths with Lennie, a new telepath, and answers her questions. Ed is also being followed by Madison and Bailey, who are part of the Bloom Squad, a group of non-telepaths who search for telepaths at the direction of Diamond Dave LeStrange. Madison and Bailey temporarily rescue Ed from Stolas but are themselves captured and subsequently rescued by Diamond Dave.
Can we talk for a moment about the character Diamond Dave? Where did this guy come from? He’s great!
Thank you! He would definitely agree with that! As his name implies, he is based on David Lee Roth, and the wild personalities he would portray in those Van Halen–era videos. I just have this image of him as an over-the-top game show host, who always has his personality set to maximum.
And here’s where I have to give the credit to [artist] Marcello Salaza. His depiction of Dave is masterful. Working with Marcelo is so rewarding. The way that he interprets these characters so that they look so real, so exactly like themselves, amazes me.
But the diamond pattern on Dave’s suit was my idea!
Now, in Part 4, we’re starting to see more of the larger world, with more characters, intrigue, and complexity. Tell me…do you think there are really any “good guys” or “bad guys” in this story?
In my view, there are definitely “good guys” and “bad guys.” The way that a person chooses to use telepathy reveals the core of their morality. And so far in this story, the majority of the people who have developed this ability have been corrupted by it. I would classify those as bad guys, because they act selfishly.
Ed placed himself in great danger when he chose to not use his ability in a big fight and lost, which is what angered Sparrow. Now that you mention it, I think it is interesting that the good guys are mostly not telepathic and most of the bad guys are. I’m going to have to think about that.
With a long-term story like Bloom Squad progressing so slowly—about 8 pages a year—how do you keep the creative process exciting for you and your artist?
I had a bit of a scare when I approached Marcelo [Salaza] to do the art, because he told me he had changed his style! But he quickly agreed to do this in the existing style.
As for me, it’s about to get real exciting because I don’t know what happens next! I have some ideas about the direction the story is taking but don’t know what will happen when we get there. It’s a discovery I am excited to make.
What can readers expect next from James Wayne Johnson?
“Bee” sure to look for Spray, the short horror film in which I play Slim, an unscrupulous exterminator. As of now, it has not yet been released online but if you find it, watch it.
Also, look for a resolution to this Bloom Squad story arc coming to you in the not-too-distant future. And, of course, a whole lot of stand-up comedy in the speakeasies of Missoula.
Where can they find you online?
My Facebook page is James Wayne Johnson! Writer! Comedian!
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