Name John Emil Augustine
Where are you from Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
A little about your self `ie your education Family life ect
I was certified K-12 in education and also have two “half” Master’s degrees in Adult Education and Communications. You’ll have to read my series to know what I mean. J I have a wife and four boys 13, 12, 6, and 6. People say “his, hers, and ours.” The two older boys are from previous relationships and the twins are ours.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
From the Abyss is my book, the first of three. I was emotionally abused by my wife. She used our son against me, and since I wanted to be a good dad to him, I allowed the abuse. But letting myself be abused sent me into a tailspin. When you’re in a tailspin, it’s easy to go further and further into the abyss.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
When I taught English, I told stories as lead-ins to exercises, so I knew I could tell a good story because of the positive responses I got. Before that, I had a fourth grade teacher who loved and encouraged my writing and a college professor who did the same and mentored me. But I was a musician and had no interest in novel writing back then.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I don’t know that I do. I think in verbs. Right now I am writing. When I call myself a writer, I am stuck in the past. If I say I am writing, I am in the present.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I had a friend who had been in an abusive relationship, so I sent her my story using Facebook messages in chapter increments. When I was done, I had a book. My poor friend! But she encouraged me the whole way, so the encouragement made me finish it.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I write the way I talk.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Brenda Perlin came up with my title. She has read everything I’ve written and is a very similar writer, having written autobiographically about her own relationships. So her idea was perfect.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Topics that fall under the umbrella of abuse or bullying are near and dear to me. My hope is to spread the message to those who are being abused, to those who know someone who is being abused, and to those who are abusing that we are here to survive each other’s abuse, we are here to help and respect each other, and we are here to learn about and improve our own actions.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
All. The book is so realistic that I was asked by Master Koda to tone it down. When you’re in an abusive relationship, you don’t think about how your language and actions will affect future readers. And when I originally wrote the story, I wrote it as close to exactly as it happened as possible.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
This is my life and I have been criticized for writing too personal a story. I have also been praised for sharing it to help others in similar situations. Eye of the beholder.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
Brenda Perlin’s books have been influential. I still read a book called Words from a Man of No Words by Shree Rajneesh. I also read I and Thou by Martin Buber quite often. I am going to go back and read Thoughts Are Things by Prentice Mulford again. When I was a kid, I read the Rabbit Run books by John Updike.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m reading Spiral Dynamics by Don Beck and Chris Cowan and A Series of Lessons in Gnani Yoga by William Walker Atkinson. I just finished It’s About the Ripples by Erwin Mickelberg.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Since I joined up at Master Koda, I have been reading those authors: Kim Mutch Emerson, Brenda Perlin, Tammy Novak, Wendy and Charles Siefken, Kymber Lee. I’m really digging the quality of the writing and the sheer variety.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m doing the From the Abyss book series and am also working on the music for the series to use as a backdrop for audio books. Yes, I am a musician and was writing music during the time the books take place. My former wife hated the fact that I was doing music, so there are only little bits and pieces, but those bits of songs I wrote were my way of dealing with what was happening. I am working on arrangements and am in talks with a somewhat well-known band to help me bring the arrangements to life. I recorded a solo version of one of the songs and it is on my website.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My friend Olivia encouraged the first part of the book. Brenda Perlin loved that book and encouraged me to write the rest of the story. I guess that’s two. Sorry.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
No, I don’t see careers. I see people and actions. Writing is something I naturally do just as playing music or breathing are things I naturally do. I will continue to do them and if the word career is comfortable or easier for someone to understand, then he or she can say the word. However, the word doesn’t have meaning for me.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Books are like children. You nurture them, worry about them, point them in the right direction, and at some point you have to say, “I’m done.” You always wish you could have done more, but you have to stop and let them have their own life.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I was always making things. I made mazes as a kid. Very intricate ones. I took the inside of a marker once in third grade and put it into a glue bottle, making colored glue long before it came out in stores. I came up with a kind of origami man who was smoking and you could make the cigarette move. All this stuff I manufactured and gave away to my classmates in elementary school. In Jr. high, I began to write and record songs, so lyrics or, I suppose, poetry came out of that. All of these are part of the same thing: creating, creating, creating. I am always busy making something. At the moment, it’s books.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Sure, here’s the first chapter.
So Long, John
The hot, humid Minneapolis summer was cooling, and the city streets no longer waved heat as they had just a few short weeks before. Landscaping had been tough that summer. I remember being told to sit down and drink water one squelching August afternoon as my mind went a little hazy from working so hard in the hundred degree heat. Landscaping could be a tough gig.
Now, by early September, the powerful sun was waning, and the concrete behind the landscaping office was finally cooling. I sat on my lunch break with Emily. Everyone else was on assignment, so she asked me to join her for lunch that day. Her tousled red curls waved in the wind and glistened in the sunlight. Her faded freckles, though accompanied by laugh lines and faint wrinkles, still gave her face a youthful look. I loved to hear her laugh and to hear her up-beat, confident, sweet voice. To be in her presence at the age of 25, even though she was 37, was incredibly thrilling.
She was married. I was getting married. I didn’t care. I didn’t want to sleep with her – not really. We had too little in common for me to really entertain that notion. The idea of Emily as a conquest or an ideal lovemaking partner had certainly gone through my mind, but something had never been right about those thoughts. I understand the un-guyness of such a statement, but there it is.
Torrid sexual tension wasn’t actually what made the relationship interesting. This was a better relationship than that. Better than sex. This was my little taste of heaven. This was my reminder of what I was looking for…what I had been looking for until I decided to get married. In fact, my fiancé, Cindi, and I had actually been set up by Emily. I was following Emily’s recommendation. The way I looked at it, I was marrying the next-best thing to Emily.
At the worn, wooden picnic table behind the office, Emily ate her hummus and veggies, and I sat with my peanut butter sandwich and chips, looking at her and then at the trees behind her. They were beginning, just a little, to turn. Everything I had experienced that summer, especially my courtship with Cindi, was changing and most certainly cooling. Cindi was changing. Emily knew. She understood me like a best friend. She sensed my apprehension and had seen Cindi change first-hand. She knew my predicament well.
“John?” Her head tilted.
I looked at her and saw the concern in her beautiful face. I knew what we were going to talk about. I knew she felt as if she should at least broach the subject. She had always looked out for me.
“Yeah,” I said nonchalantly.
“Are you doing ok?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
“You know Cindi’s not talking to me, right?”
“Yeah, it’s childish. I know.”
“Well, that’s between me and her, but I am worried about you. If you ever need help, just let me know, and I will try to help you.”
“I know…I think I will be ok.”
“I really don’t want to put her down, but I know she can be difficult sometimes.”
“No, you’re right. I can see that pretty objectively. She was awful to you, and I can’t apologize for her, but…”
“John, no. Don’t apologize.”
“I know, but I want you to know it isn’t your fault. That’s how she is. She’s mean to people for no reason.”
“John, I have to ask…are you sure about this?”
“About what? The wedding?”
“I don’t want to talk you out of it; I just want to know that you’re walking into this with your eyes open.”
“Here’s what I think. Cindi needs…help. She needs someone to care for her and to be a voice of reason.” I was surprised at myself when I heard my own words. What was I getting myself into?
“She does. I agree.” Emily sighed.
She must have known something about what I was getting myself into, I realized. Then, because I realized her awareness of the tottering perch upon which I was balanced, I suddenly felt the need to convince her that I was doing the right thing; that I had the situation under control.
“She trusts me, Emily. So long as she trusts me, I can be that person for her. She knows she gets out of line. She just doesn’t know when it’s called for and when it’s not. She needs someone who will help with that. I think I can do it.”
“I just wish you could wait. Your wedding is next month. Can’t you wait till spring?”
“Of course we could wait. Of course.”
I looked away, trailing off. How beautiful the trees would look in a few weeks. By the time the wedding happened, the leaves would be brown and mostly fallen. But between now and then, I could enjoy this one last time, this beautiful change from green to brilliant red, orange, and yellow. I could enjoy my freedom one last time. And I could enjoy my moment with Emily one last time.
“Then why don’t you?”
I broke from my thoughts as a wave of anger went through me, and all my frustration suddenly boiled to the surface as I snapped, “You don’t get it, Emily!”
“John!” Her face flashed shock. She had never seen me like that. I had rarely seen myself like that.
“Sorry. I’m so sorry.” I immediately put my head down in shame, suddenly shaking.
“John, you’re not ok. Please let me help somehow. This isn’t you.”
“I know. I’m just tired, that’s all. I’m so sorry. I don’t know what came over me.”
“I’m worried about you, John. Do you have my number?”
“Here, I’ll write it down for you, just in case. I don’t care why you call; just tell me you’ll call if you need anything. If you need a place to sleep for the night, someone to vent to, whatever. Just tell me you’ll call.”
I nodded my head obediently. “Ok, I’ll call.”
“Here. Put this somewhere safe.”
“Ok. Thank you.”
“All right, Duke, I better get back in there,” she said, pulling herself away from me and the conversation. She got up, picked up her lunch bag, and then turned back, putting her hand on my shoulder. “You take care of yourself. So long, John.”
“I will. So long.”
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
It is excruciatingly difficult to relive some moments. Those moments make for a good story, so I try to recreate them as accurately as possible, but it hurts a lot.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Brian Wilson is my favorite. He is not an author, he is a songwriter, but he is my favorite. He is one of the greatest fall and redemption stories in Rock & Roll, having survived what Elvis, Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and even his brother Dennis did not. There is so much love and hope in his songs. In terms of creation in general, he is a very special.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
My goal is to do presentations about abuse and creative writing, so I plan to do some traveling. My life travels thus far are in my book.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Rebbekah White. She is wonderful.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
You can learn everything from writing or painting or whatever your medium is. You process your thoughts that way and realize things about yourself you would never have otherwise.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Follow your heart.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
If you are in an abusive relationship, get out. Period. I know how improbable that sounds, but I have been there and I have crawled out. You can too. Things will begin to get better when you do. If you know someone who you suspect is in an abusive relationship, be a friend. When the opportunity presents itself, help your friend. And if you have any inkling that you are abusing someone, send me a note to johnemilaugustine (at) gmail (dot) com. Let’s figure out what’s happening and make it better. No judgment, just help.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies
Music. Lots of listening and doing. My kids and I also do a lot of reading. My six year olds and I have worked our way through the Laura Ingalls Wilder series as well as the Rose Wilder Lane series, both of which we enjoyed immensely. I also like Minnesota sports and have particularly enjoyed watching the Lynx win it all twice. We also love traveling with our pop-up trailer.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching
Game of Thrones, anthropological documentaries, anything with Antony Bordain, Bad Ink. There’s a movie called Sunset Boulevard. I love a lot of old movies. Dead Ringer is great. I also like the Star Wars movies.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
There’s a Beach Boys album called Smile that I listen to a lot. Brian Wilson put out a lot of great music, but recently That Luck Old Sun blew my mind a little. Genesis recorded the album Foxtrot which I love too. Anoushka Shankar has an album called Traveler which is exquisite. The Dennis Wilson album Pacific Ocean Blue is incredible. I’m a big fan of the Beatles’ Rubber Soul. Paul Simon’s Graceland is great. Fleet Foxes and Parkington Sisters are awesome. I love Live at the Roxy by Frank Zappa and band. “Dummy Up” is a great track. I could go on forever.
My wife is a great cook, so anything she makes is what I love to eat.
As far as colors, I guess I can give my rainbow explanation. I paint my face rainbow colors for two reasons: for protection and as a symbol of unity.
First, the protection is necessary because the story I am sharing is completely true except for names. In order to protect everyone involved, especially me and my family, but also my extended family including my ex-wife, I have chosen to appear incognito. My story, sad as it is, I believe is still one of hope; of standing up from within despair and grabbing hold of the hand which is held out to you. Help and hope will come. My intention is to remind my readers to watch for these things and, in the meantime, to protect yourself.
Second, the rainbow colors symbolize unity. The Rainbow Warriors from the Lakota Prophecy are people of all races and all kinds who are warriors for peace and unity. I believe there is nothing better than unity and I consider myself a Rainbow Warrior. For whatever reason, one of our natural inclinations is to classify and divide. Men, women, blacks, whites, Indians, Africans, Indigenous, Palestinians, Laotians, straights, gays, humans, animals, rivers, rocks: we want to believe, whoever we are, that we have nothing to do with “them.” That we are better off without “them.” That everything would be fine if it weren’t for “them.” These beliefs are dead wrong. Divide ourselves as we may, we cannot get away from each other. The quicker we are conscious of this and work together, the better. Together we are wise. Divided, we are idiots.
Protecting oneself in the midst of danger, holding out for help with a sense of hope, and working with one’s perceived enemies: these are not easy things to do. If they were, all of us would be doing them! However, I have to hope and believe we are at the dawn of a new era today. What the Mayan calendar told us was not that the world would end, but that a new age would begin. Our world is becoming smaller and we cannot continue to ignore one another or the earth.
This is why I wear the rainbow colors. This is why I have written my story exactly as it happened. This is why I have brought my message, which should be our message, of hope, help, love, and mercy.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I don’t know much about it, but I sometimes think being a foley artist would be really cool.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? if so what is it?