For four glorious years I rode shotgun (along with my then high school aged brother Justin) on what was probably the greatest fan experience one could ever experience. The story about how I ended up with my 14 year old brother in a bona fide NBA entourage was chronicled by my good friend Alan Siegel on the web site Deadspin.
Here’s the nut graf of a story I hope to expand upon one day. Until then, I’ll let Alan take it.
You ever wonder what it’s like to befriend a good-but-not-great NBA player, to drift along in the wake of his semi-celebrity, to be, in a way, his very own Mars Blackmon? For Brian and Justin, at least, it was pleasantly, irresistibly, even delightfully banal. It was Funyuns and dinner in Tupperware and sleepovers, and it was playing Xbox as Ricky Davis with the real Ricky Davis just a few feet away. It was weird, in part because it was all so normal
A year ago, I got word from Candlewick that MWD received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews , which I was told was a big deal. Honestly, I had no idea what Kirkus was, or that they have a history of being prickly and tough to hand out starred reviews. This isn’t my day job.
Nevertheless, I was pretty pumped about that review because it was the first official review we received. Of course, we received plenty of reviews from Goodreads, mostly good and some absurdly bad (1 goddamn star!). As an aside, what kind of sick bastard do you have to be to give a book 1 star? Seriously, if you hate it that much, STOP READING, put down the book and go outside or something. Sorry, I still get pissed thinking about it.
The truth of the matter is that this review from Kirkus was a huge ego stroke for me. I walked around mouthing the words “critically acclaimed author Brian Johnson.” It was a real high. That high continued for about three months, right until the publishing company told me that they wouldn’t pay for any book tour, that I would have to hire my own publicist, that essentially I was on my own.
I have so many conflicted feelings about the experience. The bigger part of me is grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given to have a book that is in libraries all over the world, a book that I truly believe will make an impact. However, the other part of me is pissed off. I’m pissed that this book hasn’t crossed over, despite the fact that we nailed so many issues that have been percolating in 2017. I’m pissed off that stories of female veterans haven’t been embraced by the broader public, despite the fact that women are serving on the front lines.
I guess I’m also pissed that I let myself believe that being “critically acclaimed” was the culmination of something, rather than just another step in a long journey.
I built this blog to promote MWD but I think that’s over. I’m going to use it from here on in to document my struggle, hone my craft and occasionally discuss the Boston Celtics. I doubt anyone will read this, which is good. I like starting from scratch.
“Burn your idols”
Thanks for the love guys.
We had a packed house for the opening of MWD at Brookline Booksmith last night. What a great way to launch this book. Sold em’ out of every copy they had, including the one in the window. Thanks to everyone who came out.
Also, check out this review in the Boston Globe, our hometown paper.
In anticipation of the book release in February, I sat down with my good friend and audio engineer Jacqueline Van Meter for a series of discussions on how we put this book together.
These vignettes, broken down by subject, should provide you with a solid foundation about the process that went into making MWD a reality. I’m going to sticky this to the top of the blog, so you can easily find it.
I hope you enjoy.
I’ve never quite known what to think of the above moment from famed actress (and former dog walking client of mine) Sally Field. On one hand, it’s kind of touching and on the other hand, it’s really sad. Then again, with all the positive praise we’re getting for MWD I’m starting to feel a little like Sally.
The latest review is from Booklist, another clearinghouse for literary reviews that help inform bookstores, libraries and other vendors pick which books they’re going to order. I feel really fortunate that now we have three positive reviews from the top 3 publications that cater to this market. Now, all we need is for a million people to buy the book. How hard could it be?
Seriously, I know it will be hard. However, I believe in the power of positive thought. With that said, here is the review in its entirety.
MWD: Hell Is Coming Home.
Johnson, Brian David (Author) and Egleson, Jan (Author) , Milevski, Laila (Illustrator), Stevens, Karl (Illustrator) Feb 2017. 160 p. Candlewick, hardcover, $24.99. (9780763657062). 741.5.
After a tour serving in Iraq, specialist Elizabeth Mastrangelo finds it difficult to transition back into civilian life. Haunted by flashbacks, Liz only finds comfort working with a troubled dog named Brutus at an animal shelter, hoping to save him from being euthanized. This covers a lot of subject matter, from rape in the military to the treatment of our veterans at home, but at times it takes on so much the core of the narrative gets lost, and it ends up reading like a piece of journalism rather than narrative fiction. Still, it does a good job documenting the struggles of coping with PTSD, and the female perspective of the book is a welcome change of pace. Stevens and Milevski’s sketchy artwork, with heavy black ink and shading, is naturalistic, though sometimes distractingly stiff. Additionally, while this is published as YA, the lack of teen characters might limit teen appeal. In the hands of the right audience, however, this could powerfully hit home. — Peter Blenski
As a journalist I’m going to take the whole “reading like a piece of journalism” as a compliment. More to come!