Wednesday, June 7, 2023

TBR: Junk Shop Window by James J. Patterson

TBR [to be read] is a semi-regular, invitation-only interview series with authors of newly released/forthcoming, interesting books who will tell us about their new work as well as offer tips on writing, stories about the publishing biz, and from time to time, a recipe.


Give us your elevator pitch: what’s your book about in 2-3 sentences?


Junk Shop Window is memoir with a twist. Part memoir, part speculative fiction with a Twilight Zone vibe. Breaking down barriers between the comical and the scholarly, between memoir and creative non-fiction, in the service of informative  (and hopefully entertaining) story telling.



Which essay did you most enjoy writing? Why? And, which essay gave you the most trouble, and why?

I most enjoyed writing the three Hermes pieces. All my life I have been careful to make note of the individual contributions strangers and chance encounters have made in my personal story, and by invoking the messenger god Hermes, I feel I was able to give voice, form, and meaning to those encounters.


“The World of Yesterday” essay was the longest and most difficult to write. In attempting to resuscitate the mores, deeds, tragedies and triumphs of my elders now long gone, I found myself forging links between their personal histories, my own, and the world stage upon which we have all taken part, however humble those contributions have been.


What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?

 In my writing I have always found reprieve, solace, and encouragement in Hemingway’s advice to stop when you’re on a roll, so that when you pick it back up again you resume your work with some  momentum. It works.


My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?

 What surprised me while writing Junk Shop? I had a plan to make the book, at least in part, a series of profiles of individuals whose impulsive/compulsive behaviors became their professions, whether it’s sitting down, unconsciously, to write, make art, or build furniture, etc., but once I started typing, it rather became an expose of my own compulsion to do the same thing.


How did you find the title of your book?


The title Junk Shop Window came about from an off-hand remark my wife, poet Rose Solari, made one afternoon while she was arranging bric-a-brac atop one of our living room bookcases. When I asked what her concept was, she said, “I’m kinda going for that junk shop window effect.” I was in the middle of surveying about a dozen books that came out around the centennial of the beginning of World War I, and it hit me that after that war, the debris, rubble, and remnants of that destroyed world had become the iconic symbols of  modern art, and I’ll reference that revelatory moment in the essay, “The World of Yesterday.”

 Sometimes the road to publication is truly the road less taken. An essay collection doesn’t take shape until you lay them all out on the floor and ask yourself, what have I done?


 Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book? (Any recipes I might share?)

Here's a recipe for true Canadian butter tarts, mentioned in the “World of Yesterday.” (Recipe courtesy Theresa Butcher, Lakefield, Ontario)


Butter Tart Filling:


1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup corn syrup

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 egg

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup raisins



Combine all ingredients but the raisins

- sprinkle raisins in single layer in pie crust cup, premade is fine

- fill 2/3 with filling mixture

- bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes

- let cool completely on wire rack

TaDa! Enjoy!






READ AN ESSAY FROM THIS BOOK, “The Memory of Tomorrow”:





DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.