Thursday, October 20, 2022

Jason Mosberg

Jason Mosberg lives in Los Angeles where he works as a novelist, screenwriter, and TV creator.

His new novel is My Dirty California.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Titles are important, and the reality is that sometimes writers never come up with the perfect title for their book or short story or play or movie. I have found that for about half of my projects I come up with a title that I love, and the other half, no matter how long I think and no matter how many people I ask, I never quite come up with a great title. I'm curious if other writers agree, but I think once you're done writing a project and you don't have a title and you get into that stage of brainstorming titles and running lists of possibilities by people, you never end up with a great one.

My Dirty California was a title I came up with early on in the writing process. My agent and editor and the other folks at Simon & Schuster all loved the title and we never discussed alternatives. It has a nice ring to it, and the word dirty plays against how people often think of California. "My Dirty California" is the name of a video log website that serves as the connective tissue between the four storylines in the book. Marty, a drifter living in Los Angeles, is the creator of this website. When he gets murdered, he leaves behind thousands of entries. His brother uses the video log as clues to solve the murder. And the three other intersecting storylines are also connected to the website "My Dirty California." So not only does it have a nice ring to it, but it's also central to the plot.

I've written my next novel, and unfortunately I haven't come up with a great title. And based on previous experience, I guess I probably never will...

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

My teenage self would be surprised that I wrote a novel at all. English was my worst subject in high school and I studied mathematics in college.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

There are pieces of me in all of the main characters in My Dirty California. For friends and family who know me, it's easiest to see some of myself in Jody, the thirty something white guy from Pennsylvania who moves to California and is somewhat obsessive. (I'm obsessive about writing and soccer and silly things, while Jody is obsessive about solving the murder of his brother.) But there's part of me in the other main characters too, even if it's harder to see. Though I'm not a woman, my brain sometimes gets stuck wondering if we're living in a simulation just like Penelope. I almost never put any part of myself into side characters and I almost always put at least some portion of myself into main characters. I'm fascinated by the great novelist Jennifer Egan who says she doesn't put any of herself into any of her characters.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

My writing has been just as influenced by film and TV as it has been by other books. I think this is true for many authors these days because of the golden age of television. But it's especially true for me because I put in my 10,000 hours writing screenplays and television pilots before I ever tried to write a book. Outside of storytelling, what has influenced my writing the most is living in California. My Dirty California is very much a love letter to the state where I've lived, traveled, walked, hiked, biked, and surfed. I've met thousands of people here. I've experienced triumph and heartbreak here. I've lived most of my adult life here.
Visit Jason Mosberg's website.

My Book, The Movie: My Dirty California.

--Marshal Zeringue