In a college field stuffed with creative writing programs, I think WesternMichiganUniversityis a below-the-radar gem. I met a lot of great people over my years there. My first workshop professor, Bill Olsen, is an accomplished poet. Stu Dybek, an award winning short story writer, taught fiction. Bonnie Jo Campbell was the prize graduate student at the time and Arnie Johnston really helped me understand the broader world of being a writer. My favorite experience, though, was Jaimy Gordon’s fiction class. She just won the National Book Award for her novel, Lord of Misrule, and her workshop has been a highlight of my life.
It was in her class that I met Jeremy Brown. I don’t know that we shared a single word before I read his first story. The title eludes me but it was about VC zombies in the Vietnam War. It was insane, unpredictable, and reminiscent of the pulp stories I’d grown to love. The class loved it too. They loved it so much that when I offered some constructive criticism, several came close to calling me an asshole for doing anything other than heaping praise on him.
They were more sensitive to my comments than Jeremy was, as he wrote down what I said. I don’t remember my first actual conversation with him. It’s like one minute he was just a good writer in the class and the next we were hanging out. Before long we were working together at Barnes and Noble and when I started up The Flying Turtle Show, he was on board.
Fiction classes were always more fun if he was in them with me. If a fellow student was flipping or wigging out, he’d kick me under the table to try and get me to laugh. I’m glad I never did because I don’t think they would’ve appreciated me giggling while they went off the deep end. I also remember us being given the assignment at the bookstore of vaccuming out the ceiling vents. When we kicked on the Shop Vac, it sprayed dust out the vents, covering the cafe customers in a grey cloud.
Jeremy remains the most creatively talented person I’ve ever met. First, he wrote great stories. The first few things I read by him were crazed mixes of horror and humor, featuring a man trying to turn himself into a wolf, a satanic pizza delivery service, and other similar concepts. The writing was quick and funny, without the feeling of effort you often find when others attempt the same tone.
He was also sharp in both writing and performing sketch comedy. I get pissed off thinking about how easy it came to him. The guy was completely at home on stage and though I don’t think he loved doing it, he was a hell of an improv performer. He wrote my favorite Flying Turtle sketch, “Furry Candle”, and another I’d love to produce someday called “Code of the Clans”.
On top of these two areas, Jeremy is also skilled at horror make-up, costume, and prop design. He also does wilderness races where he climbs mountains, paddles canoes, and fights bears (I don’t know about the last part but it wouldn’t surprise me). Oh, I almost forgot to mention he’s trained in MMA fighting.
You get the idea. After years of chasing other pursuits, Jeremy has honed in on becoming a professional writer. First, he wrote a couple of young adult mystery books for Scholastic (the Crime Files series). Now, his first novel has been published. For the record, he called it Suckerpunch long before Zack Snyder decided to punish us with a movie of the same name. It’s already done well enough to warrant a sequel. This doesn’t surprise me as its MMA hero, Woodshed Wallace, is a perfect protagonist to build a series around.
The book is filled with the type of funny, pulpy prose I first read years ago, with a bit more polish on it. Jeremy has been a big help to me in recent years, as he’s helped guide me through the minefield of trying to get an agent, let me use some of his material in my book, and wrote the intro for it. It’s not often you get a good guy and a good writer in the same package. This is one of those times.
Make sure you check out Suckerpunch: http://www.amazon.com/Suckerpunch-Jeremy-Brown/dp/1605422258/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1310411713&sr=1-1
His website: www.jeremywbrown.com