A Peace Corp Adventure Based on True Events
About the Book:
A Peace Corps volunteer in Central Asia finds purpose in helping a friend escape a life of servitude.
Johann Felmanstien is going nowhere in life. He has no money, no job, no girl, and a degree that would look better as a doormat than on his CV. He applies for the Peace Corps and is accepted. His country of service is the Central Asian republic of Turkmenistan, which is seventy percent desert and run by a totalitarian dictator with a cult of personality.
Johann is sent to teach English in a town to hell and gone. He contemplates leaving until he meets a local teacher with a strangely similar name called Jahan. Over time, she opens up about her dreams to live abroad and the struggle she faces in a country that sees women as little more than servants. Johann takes a passive stance at first. But as his work suffers because of his shenanigans and alcohol abuse, he realizes that helping Jahan escape Turkmenistan might be the only way to save himself.
1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you in to writing?
I wrote my first short story when I was five. It was about a handgun that came to life, floated over to our local sewage treatment plant, and shot down a sign warning people of the “river of shit” outside, so that when all the kids who bullied me at school walked by, they didn’t see it, fell in, and drowned. I was very proud of my little story. I showed it to my mother and the look of horror on her face as she read made me smile. Not because I’d wanted to horrify her, per se. Rather, it was proof that I had the power to illicit a strong reaction from someone using only my words. This was big because I lived in a small town in Northern California where nothing ever happened. I knew then I could change that.
2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?
My favorite place to write is my bedroom. This may sound silly and unromantic, but I don’t give a rat’s ass. My bedroom is quiet, isolated, and filled with books, maps, masks, paintings, and a million other things I’ve collected on my trips to inspire me. I’ve found that writers who prefer chic coffee shops or smoky bars usually pen garbage. This is because before they can get anything good out, they end up ranting with a friend about what a writer they are or falling down drunk.
My favorite time to write is at night. Not because I like to go out on breaks to look at the moon or take thoughtful walks in the dark, but because I like silence, and at night, in my neighborhood, you could hear an ant break wind.
3: Where do your ideas come from?
That’s a tough question. Most of my material I harvest from the trips, people, madness, love, and tragedy that defines my life. But as far as “ideas,” and by that I assume you mean those thoughts that put me in the mode to do what I do, well shit, I’d have to say those come from that unknowable place in all of us where dreams churn and fires burn and the universe dips its wick.
4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?
A bit of both. If we compare a story to a house, I usually start with a loose gathering of material that I nail into a framework, then as I walk through it, I put up walls and stairs and ceilings, knowing more or less what the next step is. This is true until I tile the roof. Just like that poor bastard who thought he’d do it all himself, I never know I’m on that final corner till I fall on my ass and look up from the grass and see that damn, I’m finished.
5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?
I usually answer this question with some variation of the following:
“I write mostly about my travels and my travels are filled with action and adventure, so action/adventure is my genre.”
But this isn’t the whole picture. Yeah, all the crazy shit that happens on the road finds its way through my pen, but so do all of life’s dirty little details like the smell of a woman’s breath, or the sound of a toilet flushing, or the feel of a snail being crushed under my heel. Some people call this stuff “Dirty Realism.” I guess it fits. Anyways, I’m drawn to these things because they color each moment in a special way. And if I can put them on the page and make them look pretty, maybe others will take notice and do the same.
6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?
I don’t really have a dream cast. In fact, I can’t stand most of Hollywood. If someone were going to make a movie out of my latest book “Saving Jahan,” which is based on my Peace Corps service in the Central Asian republic of Turkmenistan, I would prefer they got actual Peace Corps volunteers and Turkmen nationals to play the parts.
7: Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?
Now that I’m finally editing and publishing my books, I’m not reading as much, but back in the day I used to read a ton. My favorite author is Charles Bukowski because he is the king of Dirty Realism, but I also enjoy John Fante, Bill Burroughs, Truman Capote, George Orwell, and Anne Sexton, to name a few.
8: What book/s are you reading at present?
I don’t know if “reading” is the right word as these books are riddled with dogears and have been collecting dust on my nightstand for months, but their titles are “Choke” by Chuck Palahniuk, “Trick Baby” by Iceberg Slim, “Race Matters” by Cornel West, and “Collected Poems,” by Edna St. Vincent Millay.
9: What is your favourite book and why?
I can’t say I have a favourite book. But the book that affected me the most was “Way of the Peaceful Warrior,” by Dan Millman. My older cousin gave it to me when I was fourteen, which was a time in my life where I was just starting to realize who I was and what I wanted. This book showed me that it is possible for an average person to transcend mediocrity by slaying the fear that keeps them from doing great things. To this day, I practice what I learned from that book. I believe I always will.
10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?
You don’t become a writer. You’re either a writer or you’re not. To be a writer, you must write. To write, you must organize your life so that writing comes first, always.
11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?
I’m not big on social media but I do have a Facebook page under the name “Hans Fellmann.”
My blog “Breaking the Seal” and my books “Chuck Life’s a Trip” and “Saving Jahan” can be accessed through my author page: hansjosephfellmann.com
About the Author:
Hans Joseph Fellmann is a writer and English teacher from Livermore, California. He has visited over eighty countries, and lived in Spain, Turkmenistan, and the Czech Republic. A graduate of the University of California at San Diego, his articles and short stories have appeared in the UCSD Guardian, the San Diego Union-Tribune and The Prague Revue. He recently published his first novel, Chuck Life’s a Trip, which is based on a life-changing journey he took around the world with his childhood buddies in 2006.