Jon O’Bergh talks about how the breaking points people deal with inspired The Shatter Point, and his protagonists’ song picks for Carpool Karaoke

What are the Threads of Crime in “The Shatter Point”?  The first thread involves a danger-loving young woman who pressures her sensitive boyfriend to prove himself by undergoing the rigors of an extreme haunt, after which he is publicly humiliated. She then urges him to take revenge. The second thread involves an escalating feud between neighbors, one of whom operates the extreme haunt. The feud threatens to turn violent. The two story lines eventually intersect, with unexpected twists.

Fun fact: Jon says, “I’m a classically trained pianist, and have performed in rock and jazz/funk-fusion bands.” We need Jon at the bar at the next Noir at the Bar Toronto!

shatterpoint_medSR: What’s your new book about?

JO: The premise of “The Shatter Point” is that everyone has a breaking point. Because of each character’s past—abuse, bullying, family tragedy, whatever—events threaten to make each character snap, with potentially dire consequences. The novel also plays with what we think we know is real and what may be otherwise.

SR: Was there a specific issue or incident that really motivated you to write this particular story? What was the prompt?

JO: Several things, really. But initially I watched a documentary on extreme haunts and wondered would happen if someone was humiliated by the experience and decided to take revenge. We see examples every day in the news of people becoming unhinged. Also, social media culture and the manipulation of reality play a part in the story.

SR: How do you think your characters would respond if aliens landed in the center of town on page 57?

JO: Funny you should ask that. One of the characters is so bewildered by the behavior of everyone younger that she ponders whether aliens have invaded their bodies like in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” So she wouldn’t be surprised. But the other characters would freak out.

SR: Your protagonist has to flee the country. Where are they headed to and why that location?

JO: Probably Canada. The book is not part of a series, but I’m considering the possibility of having the protagonist show up in my next novel, which will take place in Toronto. Not as a main character, but kind of like American Horror Story does, making connections between seasons.

SR: What are your characters’ greatest fears? Why?

JO: There are five primary characters, and each is motivated by a different fear. Donna remains troubled by a previous marriage that turned sour when the husband became abusive. She worries about her son Billy, who fears that he inherited his father’s propensity toward violence. Feelings of inadequacy haunt Asher from his years being bullied. Ruth hides a series of traumatic incidents from her youth. Jada fears being bored, and her craving for stimulation leads eventually to disaster.

SR: Is there something you hope the reader carries away with them after they’re done reading? An insight or philosophy that you wanted to come through in your work?

JO: Perhaps to be gentle with one another. You never know what demons someone is grappling with. Anger in reaction to anger usually escalates into something regrettable.

SR: If hell was watching one movie over and over and over again, or listening to one song over and over again, what would the movie or song be for you? For your protagonist?

JO: The song “Afternoon Delight,” a 1976 hit by Starland Vocal Band. One of my protagonists is a musician, so he would probably agree.

SR: Carpool karaoke. What would be your protagonist’s song? Yours?

JO: Since one of my protagonists is in a band inspired by Little Dragon, he would choose “Klapp Klapp.” The accompanying video is perfect for the novel, too, because it features a ghoulish woman walking through an apocalyptic field and a cemetery. As for me, probably “Boys Wear Pink” by Todrick Hall.

SR: What’s the first book you remember reading that had a huge impact on you? How did that story affect you? How do you think it shaped your desire to be a writer?

JO: The Hardy Boys mysteries had a big impact on me. But my favorite childhood book is “The Man Who Was Magic,” by Paul Gallico. It’s a beautiful story about someone who is misunderstood, who has real magic in a city where magicians use fakery, and how he opens the eyes of a young girl to the world around her. I still re-read it periodically, laughing and crying in equal measure. That book inspired me to want to recreate experiences like that for others.

SR: What detail in your writing do you obsess over the most? Character names? Locations? Description? Dialogue? Research?

JO: What don’t I obsess over? For novels, I obsess over locations, because I like to ground them in actual places, so that requires making sure certain physical references make sense. Dialogue, definitely, to make sure it sounds natural, and deciding what should be said versus what should be described.

SR: Are you drawn to things that are really popular or wary of them? Do you find it helps you to market your work if you’re familiar with what’s currently selling or do you ignore all of that and focus on what you’re interested in?

JO: I’m usually wary of anything that’s super popular. My musical, cinematic, and literary tastes tend toward things that have a bit more artistry and complexity, that avoid the obvious. Such things rarely have mass appeal.

SR: Is there something you’ve experienced that’s affected your view of life? Tell us about it and how it changed you.

JO: Life is really difficult. For all of us. Even people who we think have “made it” struggle with spirit-killing issues. It’s a wonder anyone survives at all. But I’ve found that sometimes even the most awful experience opens a door to something wonderful that you wouldn’t have otherwise encountered. You can’t separate the bad from the good. Just remember that we’re all in the same boat, and people are what’s important, not things.

SR: If you have to live in a potential natural disaster zone, would you pick blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions? Why? If you had to describe your characters as a weather system, what would they be?

JO: I’ve lived everywhere one of those disasters has actually occurred, except volcanoes. I’d have to pick blizzards as the least obnoxious. At least you can prepare and just stay put. As for my characters: Donna would be a warm front, Asher would be a thunderstorm, Jada would be a tornado, Billy would be a volcanic eruption, and Ruth would be a white-out blizzard. (I guess those aren’t all weather systems, but they fit.)

SR: What factors influence you when you’re choosing a book to read?

JO: I listen to podcasts and read reviews, but it’s still a wild guess if I’m going to enjoy a particular book. The cover is important. It can either intrigue me or turn me off.

SR: Do you have any special events coming up? Where can people catch up with you in person or on a podcast?

JO: I have a music blog, Song of Fire (https://obergh.net/songoffire), where I post various musings on music from time to time. I’m regularly active on Twitter (@jon_obergh).

 

Plus:

Don’t miss Jon’s thoughts on developing a love of story-telling

And find out what’s on Jon’s TBR pile

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obergh-author-bioJon O’Bergh is an author and musician who loves a good scare. He grew up in Southern California, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of California at Irvine. A fan of ghost stories and horror movies, Jon came up with the idea for “The Shatter Point” after watching a documentary about extreme haunts. He has released over a dozen albums in a variety of styles, including the atmospheric album “Ghost Story.” After many years living in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., he now spends most of his time with his husband in Toronto.

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